Open data gains favor with cities, states — and courts

San Francisco initative, New Mexico ruling support transparency efforts

As the federal government’s Open Data Initiative moves gradually forward, the idea is gaining ground with city and state governments — and, significantly, the courts.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom this month announced new “OpenGov” legislation that would require city agencies to provide permanent sources of data, as part of the city’s move toward transparency.

Newsom’s plans include opening that data up to developers, following in the pattern set by programs such Washington, D.C.’s Apps for Democracy and the Obama administration’s Apps for America, both initiated by Vivek Kundra, the current federal CIO.

The data would be available at the city’s Data.SF website. “San Francisco’s world-class technology community will take city data we collect and develop new and innovative applications that will serve the public better and transform government,” Newsom said in a release.

Meanwhile, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell went onto YouTube ask the state’s residents for ideas on how to better run the government. They can submit their ideas to the website.

Perhaps the most significant development in open government is the ruling by the New Mexico Supreme Court rejecting a proposal to remove some criminal cases from the public courts website, according to a report by the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government.

The site is a popular source of criminal background checks on prospective employees, a fact that prompted complaints from some people whose names were on the docket, FOG reported. Cases that were dismissed, dropped or even falsely filed still would appear, and people involved in those cases felt their reputations were unfairly tarnished. Merely having one's name on the site could hurt the chances of employment. Court administrators proposed limiting the posted information to convictions.

The court, while acknowledging the complexity of the issue, ruled that it was not the court system’s place to edit information but to present it in full. FOG applauded the decision for its support of transparency.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.


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