A new study on open data in Los Angeles County digs deeply into that government’s initiatives, but the findings and recommendations could also help most any city or county that’s looking to to start or expand its own open data program.
The University of Southern California study, Empowering Public Through Open Data: Findings and Recommendations for City Leaders in Los Angeles County, examined LA County open data policies using the criteria established by the U.S City Open Data Census. Researchers found that 18 of the 88 cities in LA County have launched open data initiatives, though the scope of those initiatives varied widely. Funding was the most-cited barrier to implementing or expanding open data initiatives.
The study outlined eight key recommendations for city officials and others interested in open data:
- Focus not only on transparency, but also on how open data can be used to solve problems.
- Develop a network of city officials who are advocates for open data.
- Pursue outside grants and other opportunities for funding, or get started with open data for free.
- Track and highlight stories of how open data is creating value in your city.
- Prioritize the release of high-value datasets.
- Establish guidelines to protect the privacy of individuals.
- Build support for open data through municipal policies.
- Go beyond existing open data criteria to make sure open data is working in the unique context of your city.
The study also warned that potential benefits of open data — such as increased transparency, government accountability and citizen engagement — are difficult to measure with precision. As a result, most cities with open data initiatives have not yet developed clear metrics or targets to measure their progress.
In addition to the U.S City Open Data Census, the study is also based on survey responses from city officials, in-depth interviews from LA County, public scoring of cities with open data portals and cities and a review of existing articles and reports about open data from the academic, public and private sectors. The full study is available here.
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