Reinvent Albany Cheers Open NY / NY State Open Data Launch

Today in Albany, Governor Cuomo launched New York State’s Open Data Portal. Reinvent Albany applauded the launch as a major — and very positive — first step towards vastly increasing the amount of state and local government data that is available to New Yorkers. According to Reinvent Albany executive director, and NYC Transparency Working Group co-chair John Kaehny,

“Governor Cuomo is opening up the flood gates, and sending out a torrent of valuable state — town and county — data for all of the public to use. This flow of data will increase transparency, spur the innovation economy, improve public services and reduce the cost of government. New York State’s open data initiative is particularly innovative and interesting from a national perspective, because it makes the state’s data website available to local governments as a resource they can use to make their data easier for themselves and the public to find and use.”

Kaehny added:

“Freedom of information is basic to any successful democracy,“Data is simply information in a digital form. ‘Open data’ is the way information is freed for broad public use. Today marks a big step towards a new era in which it’s understood that while government is the steward of the information it collects, the public is the rightful owner.”

Reinvent Albany will follow-up this post with more details about the state’s exciting new open data initiative in the days ahead.

Gotham Gazette: Technology is Opening Government

From David King in this morning’s Gotham Gazette, Technology Helping to Pry Open Government:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to unveil a major open data initiatives as early as this week — Sunshine Week — coming on the heels of the announcement earlier this year, a portal that allows citizens to look up the state’s finances.

Later this year, the state Comptroller’s office will roll out a system that allows New Yorkers to see every check issued by the government and to follow exactly who is doing business with the state down to the penny. The system, tentatively titled “Checkbook,” is the next step in New York’s slow but steady embrace of open government and open data. It is modeled after city Comptroller John Liu’s Checkbook 2.0 site that was introduced earlier this year and allows users to track city spending in a similar fashion.

John Kaehny of Reinvent Albany, a group focused on improving data access, said that a lot of states are creating open data portals but, “They are very superficial. A lot of their open government portals and follow-money websites are very weak,” he said of other state’s open data platforms.

Kaehny thinks that New York is positioned to be able to lead the open data movement but it isn’t quite there yet. “I think New York is incredibly good in some areas and middling in other areas. But the trend is very good,” he said.

NYC Transparency Working Group and City Council Congratulate NYC on One Year Open Data Milestone

NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and Councilmember and open data bill sponsor, Gale Brewer congratulated NYC DOITT and the Bloomberg administration for posting more than 1000 raw data sets on the NYC Open Data Portal. Advocates joined the applause, and expressed appreciation at the city’s efforts to fulfill the spirit of the March 7th, 2013 deadline for posting all data already on city websites in the city’s open data portal or explaining why this wasn’t possible.

Since the signing of Local Law 11 last March, DoITT has worked with agencies citywide to add more than 350 new data sets to the public inventory available on NYC OpenData, as well as securing regular feeds for updates to existing data sets. In addition to application programming interfaces (APIs) for direct connectivity to data feeds, the NYC OpenData portal offers enhanced browsing and search capabilities allowing users to search by full data set – or by datum within data sets; visualization tools such as maps, charts, and graphs; and discussion forums for user feedback and suggestions. Regular refreshes of data sets are made through the portal, with metadata informing users how often particular data sets will be updated.

NYC Transparency Working Group Statements

“Freedom of information is basic to any successful democracy,” said John Kaehny, nycTWG co-chair and Executive Director of Reinvent Albany. “Data is simply information in a digital form. ‘Open data’ is the way information is freed for broad public use. Today marks a big step towards a new era in which it’s understood that while government is the steward of the information it collects, the public is the rightful owner.”

“Making it easier for the public to access City government databases will make our local agencies more effective and responsive,” said Gene Russianoff, nycTWG co-chair and senior attorney for the New York Public Interest Research Group.

Jump to text of complete press release.

Applause for Smart Civic Tech In Gov. Cuomo’s SAGE Commission Report

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The final report from Governor Cuomo’s SAGE commission includes an impressive number of initiatives that harness Information Technology to improve how the state delivers services, increases accountability and transparency, and boosts efficiency. Overall, the report shows that the governor’s senior policymakers grasp the potential of Information Technology to transform state government, and vastly improve how government serves New Yorkers.

The report includes a section called “Building a Culture of Performance and Accountability,” which includes a number of innovative ideas, including two that Reinvent Albany has championed:

1. NY Performs is a web based performance management system for all major agencies and authorities, will be launched publicly by the end of 2013. NY Performs takes Key Performance Indicators from state agencies and displays them in a graphic dashboard format.

2. Open New York, includes initiatives, like open data, that increase transparency and expand access to State government services, records and data.

We will have more detailed posts on New York Performs and Open New York in the days ahead.


Technology Highlights from the SAGE Final Report

Open Government

● NY Performs, three-tiered performance management dashboard displaying Key Performance Indicators. Page 90.

● Open New York Initiative: increase access to data, reports, etc. in machine-readable and mappable formats. Page 100

● New York State is thinking about a Big Apps competition of their own. Page 101

Smarter Government Metrics

● OGS pilot program monitors GPS data in state vehicles to decrease costs. Page 18

● NY Performs, three-tiered performance management dashboard displaying Key Performance Indicators. Page 90.

Statewide Updating and Consolidation of IT Infrastructure and Systems 

● IT Transformation: major IT consolidation, new statewide management structure, IT staff, data centers, help desks, cluster CIOs page 60.

● Modernize State IT infrastructure by upgrading state data center. Page 60

● Replace analog phone networks with VOIP. Page 60.

● Standardize and consolidate email platforms from 4 platforms to 2 to 1. Page 60

● Implement enterprise-wide identity and access management for state software. Page 60

● Grants Contract Managements: enterprise-wide software, standardize applications, reporting and performance management methodology. Page 74

Expanded and Modernized Online Service

● Rent regulation system redesign; tenant interaction and rent registration. Page 65

● Workers compensation claims e-reporting and paperless tracking of workplace injuries. Page 66

● Major e-licensing push; 400 types of licenses and permits. Apply, track, and communicate electronically. Page 69

● Modernize DMV: reserve a place in line from the internet, prioritize customer inquiries in line, call-center improvements, modernize web sites to add functionality, automate tests. Page 69


Money in Politics, March 1 Edition

Qualcomm Discloses Political Spending
New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, manager and trustee of the state retirement fund, has dropped a lawsuit against wireless tech giant Qualcomm following the company’s decision to disclose its political expenditures. Under a new policy released by Qualcomm, it will post its contributions to political candidates, parties, trade organizations and 501(c)(4) organizations for each fiscal year online.“Qualcomm’s disclosure policy sets a high standard for transparency in corporate political spending disclosure and the company deserves praise for its actions,” DiNapoli stated. The Albany Times-Unioneditorialized in favor of DiNapoli, praising his initiative. “We encourage Mr. DiNapoli to continue to use the $152.9 billion state pension fund’s ample clout to make more companies come clean. And let’s hope that other public pension trustees and other public officials are following this instructive tale.” Qualcomm’s voluntary disclosures will benefit its shareholders, but investors need the protection of a uniform, nationwide rule requiring disclosure of corporate political expenditures.

NY State Senator Brad Holyman: End Albany’s Pay-to-Play Culture
New York State Senator Brad Hoylman has an excellent op-ed in The Villager this week. Hoylman states that despite incremental improvements in ethics reforms following landmark legislation last year, Albany’s pay-to-play culture will not end until campaign finance laws are changed as well. New York’s contribution limits are 12 times higher than the national median for states and 10 times greater than the limit for presidential candidates. Corporate contributions, banned in almost half of all states, are the norm in New York. Political party housekeeping accounts, which can accept unlimited donations from individuals and corporations, serve as a loophole that creates the possibility of giving in excess of New York’s sky-high limits. “Fortunately, we have a widely celebrated model of a fair and functional campaign finance law right here in New York City.” Candidates for any elective office in New York City can qualify for public funding if they raise enough money from small donors. Contribution limits are low and only living, breathing individuals can donate to a candidate. Two of the State Senate’s three conference leaders have pledged their support for campaign finance reform. Let’s push to make sure “Albany has the best politicians money can’t buy.”