The launch this week of Britain’s open data archive, data.gov.uk, is just the latest effort by governments to provide access to the information they collect. It follows the lead of the U.S. site, data.gov, which was launched last May. The White House’s Open Government Initiative blog had a welcoming note yesterday.
Here in Oklahoma, we need a similar effort. I’d like to see the state, maybe in partnership with local governments, provide a one-stop-shop of downloadable governmental data.
It’s not as if Oklahoma doesn’t already provide a wealth of data on its state agency sites. A quick search found the following downloadable data sets:
–Campaign finance and lobbyist gift-giving data from the state Ethics Commission
–Quarterly labor market information from the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission
–Child abuse investigations, food stamp usage and other social welfare information from the Department of Human Services
–Daily tax revenue reports from the Oklahoma Tax Commission
The problem is that data is all over the place, residing deep inside separate agency Web sites. Why not simplify it by providing links from one central page, as well as suggestions for use and a place to see what other developers, media outlets and civic groups have done with the data? There’s plenty of good examples to work from, including Utah, New York City, Washington D.C., and San Francisco to name just a few.
In Oklahoma, we already have a model to work from at the University of Oklahoma’s Center for Spatial Analysis. From its Data Warehouse, the public can download specialized mapping files, called shapefiles, for geographic information systems. (And don’t forgot our own Your Right to Know page, which is a compilation of useful links, searchable databases and online maps we’ve used for stories in The Oklahoman and on NewsOK.com.)
Of course, the immediate barriers are obvious: developing data.ok.gov would cost manpower, time and money, something Oklahoma is lacking right now as it faces budget shortfalls. But several lawmakers, including Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, chairman of the House Government Modernization Committee, have shown interest in advancing the state’s technological agenda. The state also is in the process of hiring a chief information officer, so maybe developing a centralized data site could be part of their job, too.
Meanwhile, if you know of any downloadable data sets from state, city or county government that could be featured on a future data.ok.gov site, leave a comment below.
Written by Paul Monies