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Process for San Francisco

Understand your maturity & options

Prior to issuing an open data executive directive or legislation, it would be prudent to do some socialization of open government and open data. Departments may not see the benefit of opening its data to public inspection. When describing the benefits concrete examples of benefits experience elsewhere may help. One strategy is to explain that public collaboration may result in the department being able to offer more services at the same or less cost. Departments may also not currently have the standard operating procedures that encourage machine readable data. Explanation and policy should be created around acceptable data formats. There may also be gaps in infrastructure allowing the departments to disseminate the data to the public or to a centralized location. Depending on your municipality the effort may require additional expenditure. As with any new program, personnel will likely be needed, at least part-time, to function as data stewards. There should be a representative in each department which is tasked with ensuring that the department data is available and updated regularly. Depending on the size of your municipality a City-wide data steward who is the subject matter expert on open data will work with the other representatives to ensure compliance with the policy.

Decide on data delivery approach

A website should be created to explain the open data effort for internal and external stakeholders but also as a “one-stop-shop” for finding the datasets. However, there are at least two approaches to housing the datasets: a centralized repository or links to each departmental repository. The benefit of having a central repository is that it is easier to manage the infrastructure serving the datasets. In a centralized repository, each department would upload its dataset and that dataset would then be served to the public. This approach has the added benefit of creating a secure location for the public to interact with the government data. This central repository could also be in a hosted location thereby further separating the public from sensitive internal data and applications. In the first phase of the open data project, once a dataset is uploaded to the central repository it will be static. The other option is to link to the datasets from the website. This allows more departmental control and the potential for more current datasets. This approach could result in links from the website being broken as the locations of repositories or datasets move.

Evolution of open data

The City-wide data steward will be work with each department’s representative on releasing more datasets over time. It may work well to have technical people as departmental representatives in which a collaborative atmosphere is fostered. The evolution of open data is one in which publication of datasets becomes an automated process. This will result in more datasets released in a timely manner. There will need to be a compliance organization that verifies that departments are complying with the Executive order or legislation. This organization may also be the sound board for future changes due to changes in technology, data formats, or security. Standards on interdepartmental naming conventions and data types may facilitate public interaction with the datasets. Standardization allows for more tools to be built with less development time and effort.

Public feedback will be crucial to the evolution of the open data initiative. The public is the consumer of the datasets and thus their needs need to be taken into account when evolving the open data program.

(Pending more updates in the future)