Civic News

Gov. Wolf signs open data executive order

Yesterday, medical marijuana. Today, open data. What's next?

Gov. Tom Wolf. (Courtesy photo)

Four years after Mayor Michael Nutter signed an open data executive order for the City of Philadelphia, Gov. Tom Wolf is signing one for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Read the executive order
“Our goal,” Wolf said in a statement, “is to make data available in order to engage citizens, create economic opportunities for businesses and entrepreneurs, and develop innovative policy solutions that improve program delivery and streamline operations.”
As part of the order, the state will form an advisory committee and launch an open data portal. The state aims to launch the portal in August, where it says it will post data in a machine-readable format. The first datasets slated for release will be focused on Wolf’s goals, said Office of Administration Secretary Sharon Minnich.
The order will be carried out by Julie Snyder, director of the Office of Data and Digital Technology. Snyder, the former chief information officer of the Department of Environmental Protection, reports to Minnich.
Here’s a look at the types of data that the state has and could release, according to Minnich and Snyder:

  • Data from the Department of Corrections about recidivism
  • Jobs data from the Department of Community and Economic Development
  • Oil and gas inspection data from the Department of Environmental Protection

We’re especially hoping the state will release its corporation data, which is currently only searchable by business name.
The open data executive order is a great start, but as we’ve seen throughout the last four years in Philadelphia, implementing an open data order is a big job — from getting buy-in from the appropriate departments to delivering it in a format that’s accessible to more than just technologists to building a constituency of companies and nonprofits whose jobs rely on the data, something that Philadelphia has yet to do. That’s the pinnacle of an open data program, Azavea president Robert Cheetham has said, because it will ensure its longevity. Good luck, Minnich, Snyder and team. We’ll be watching.

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