open data for state and local government

Open data tapped for economic development, law enforcement

State and local governments are finding different ways to leverage their open data.

The District of Columbia is opening up its databases with an eye to having the information commercialized by companies who can use it to fuel a business plan, the District’s CTO Archana Vemulapalli said at the VMware’s Public Sector Innovation Summit on April 26. “We want to set up government as an enabler,” she said.

The District’s  agencies, she said, are looking to her office to find the best ways to make their “treasure trove” of data  more widely available.

Some open data programs focus on the needs of residents. Amen Ra Mashariki, New York City’s chief analytics officer, is working on a data-driven program to help residents in rent-controlled apartments fight back against developers illegally trying to force them out of their buildings. By correlating information on building maintenance, sales and tenant complaints with other data, Mashariki’s office has been able to identify and prosecute some offending building owners.

Maine is just getting started with its open data efforts, state CIO Jim Smith said. States, with their larger overall populations and spread-out facilities, can have a harder time pushing out data-based services, he said. “Cities have a closer relationship with their citizens.”

Smith is looking for ways to open state data by talking with state lawmakers about the possibilities such services can offer. He said he’s also partnering with state universities to develop applications.

Smith, Vemulapalli and Mashariki agreed, however, that one of the highest hurdles they face is changing the culture of siloed agencies.

Yet for Mashariki, necessity is driving more openness. “Things move at light speed in New York,” he said, and almost every incident, like a recent crane collapse, requires data from a variety of city agencies for investigation and recourse.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


  • Records management: Look beyond the NARA mandates

    Pandemic tests electronic records management

    Between the rush enable more virtual collaboration, stalled digitization of archived records and managing records that reside in datasets, records management executives are sorting through new challenges.

  • boy learning at home (Travelpixs/

    Tucson’s community wireless bridges the digital divide

    The city built cell sites at government-owned facilities such as fire departments and libraries that were already connected to Tucson’s existing fiber backbone.

Stay Connected