NY Breaks New Ground with State-Local Open Data Partnership

From Governor Cuomo’s recent executive order on open data:

Opportunity for Localities to Participate.  Localities are invited, and are encouraged, to submit data to the Open Data Website for publication in accordance with guidelines set forth in the Open Data Handbook.  ITS shall assist localities so they may use the Open Data Website.  Such assistance shall include, but not be limited to, technical assistance and expertise, and accommodations shall be made for variations among local governments’ capacity and equipment.

We think this presents an exciting opportunity for open data in New York State, and this order is one of the first examples we’ve seen in the US of offering state IT resources as a shared services between state and local government. The fact that nearly 70 localities have signed on in the first week points to state-local shared services as a huge new area of open government activity.

Big Nitty Gritty Transparency Step for NYC: First city to report payments to subcontractors

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Comptroller John C. Liu and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced that New York City will become the first municipality in the country to establish a comprehensive subcontracting database and publicly report payments made by prime contractors to subcontractors, which will greatly enhance the City’s – and the public’s – ability to monitor billions of dollars worth of contract activity. The new reforms will also strengthen the City’s capacity to detect and address potentially fraudulent billing practices, further ensure the timeliness of payments from contractors to subcontractors and more seamlessly track the utilization of minority- and women-owned businesses on subcontracted City work. The Mayor’s Office of Contract Services and the Comptroller’s Office have been working on this subcontracting initiative for more than a year, and recently began a pilot program with vendors serving as initial testers.

“Congratulations to Mayor Bloomberg and Controller Liu,” said John Kaehny, Executive Director of Reinvent Albany and Co-Chair of the NYC Transparency Working Group. “Digitizing and reporting subcontractor payments is a huge leap forward in accountability and transparency. Though somewhat dry and esoteric, this new reporting system has big implications for reducing corruption and improving efficiency, and when fully in place, will make New York City one of the most fiscally transparent cities in the world. When the subcontractor data is put into the Checkbook NYC platform, it will become instantly available for the rest of government and the public to use.”

Cuomo Orders State Agencies to Open-Up Data

Congratulations to Governor Cuomo and his staff for his March 11th Executive Order instructing state agencies and authorities controlled by the governor  to “Use technology to promote transparency, improve government performance, and enhance citizen engagement” via a new open data initiative and website.  The Order has a terrific statement of principals in its “Whereas” section, and includes powerful language aimed at implementing what could potentially be one of the broadest open government initiatives in the United States.  The Order does the following:

  1. Establishes an open data website operated by the Department of Information Technology Services (ITS.)
  2. Puts NY’s chief Data Officer, Barbara Cohn, and CTO, Kishor Bagul to head the open data site/initiative.
  3. Appoints a high-level Data Coordinator at each agency by April 10th 2013.
  4. Establishes a “Data Working Group” led by CDO and ITS to partner with agencies by April 25, 2013.
  5. Orders state agencies to create a catalog of “publishable data” by Monday August 5th, 2013. (145 days.)
  6. Orders agencies to post a schedule for uploading publishable data by September 9, 2013. (180 days.)
  7. Offers an “Opportunity for Localities to Participate,” and directs ITS to assist in publishing their data.
  8. Creates and Open Data Handbook, with a draft version due by June 10th, 2013 (90 days,) and a final version by November 6th (240 days.)

There is much for open government advocates in New York, and nationally, to like in this carefully crafted Executive Order. It’s both ambitious and pragmatic, and appears informed by a thoughtful assessment of New York City’s Open Data Law and other open data initiatives.  At this early date, the big question is whether agencies feel inspired (or compelled) to fulfill the expansive spirit of the Order, or whether they will do as little as possible behind the cover of some broad definitions and exceptions.

In particular,  open government advocates will be keeping an eye on agency claims that publishing some data sets will impose “Undue financial, operational, or administrative burden on the state or agency.” The intent here is reasonable, but the when does the “burden” become “undue?” There is a cost to getting data ready for public consumption — and improving the quality of state data is a side benefit of this new Order. But when is that cost too much, who is deciding, and will the public be part of this discussion. Stay tuned.


Open NY Expands to 69 Localities Sharing Open Data

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that 64 more local governments across the state have signed up to share their data on open.ny.gov, a new and comprehensive data transparency website – just three days after its launch at the start of Sunshine Week, a national initiative designed to raise awareness about the importance of open government. With five localities already sharing data on the site, today’s announcement means that 69 localities statewide have now signed up to participate in open.ny.gov.

Open.ny.gov provides user-friendly, one-stop access to data for the first time from New York State agencies, localities, and the federal government. It features economic development, recreation, health, and public services information in a format that is retrieved, downloaded, indexed, and searched by commonly used web search applications.

“With the launch of open.ny.gov, New York State has taken another step toward greater transparency in government,” Governor Cuomo said. “In addition to reducing costs and housing data for localities, this website helps connect government on all levels with the people it serves. I’m pleased to announce 64 additional local governments have pledged to participate in open.ny.gov, and I encourage others to join us in making government more accessible to all New Yorkers.” Read more…

NY Open Data Portal: Deep in Public Health Data

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