“An Innovation Capital”
Montgomery County’s continued efforts over the past year to make more information available to the public—and to make that information easier to find and use—has earned national attention as the County was honored recently for being ranked No. 1 in the 2013 Digital Counties Survey conducted by the Center for Digital Government in conjunction with the National Association of Counties. The award was presented at the National Association of Counties annual conference in Fort Worth, Tex.
Montgomery County’s open government efforts (openMontgomery) were selected as the nation’s best by a panel of judges who considered hundreds of submissions from across the country. The judging panel of experts included executives from the Center for Digital Government. The survey assessed computing, networking, applications, data and cybersecurity, open government, mobile services and more for jurisdictions during 2012.
In December 2012, the County Council approved the Open Data Act, whose chief sponsor was Councilmember Hans Riemer, the Council’s lead member for digital government. This was a significant part of the County’s launch of a major open government effort.
“We live in an era of great change, but a question we have all considered is: ‘Can Montgomery County government keep pace?’” said Councilmember Riemer, who accepted the award at the NACO conference, along with Sonny Segal, the County’s chief information officer. “It is the same question that governments of all sizes around the nation are wondering about their own abilities in this fast-changing technological world. We want Montgomery County to be recognized as an innovation capital, where the government, the private sector and community leaders work together on our biggest challenges.
“The Open Data Act requires County Government to be more sophisticated in how we collect and manage data and we establish new policies of sharing valuable data openly with the public. The law is a foundation for a new digital strategy for Montgomery County, which I have helped formulate with County Executive Ike Leggett and his superb team. We still have much work to do, but this award shows that our peers think we are going in the right direction.”
The openMontgomery (http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/open) portal provides easy access to performance measurements, budgets, contracts, open solicitations and internal audits. The portal includes a dataMontgomery(http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/open/data.html) site with an increasing number of raw datasets, ranging from employee salaries to restaurant inspection results so that the public can develop their own mobile applications. A new engageMontgomery(http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/open/engage.html) social media platform for idea sharing and brainstorming to improve the community is another element of the portal, as are the new mobileMontgomery (http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/open/mobile.html) site that features mobile access to County information and services, including 311, storm operations and the Ride On real time bus information.
“Montgomery County is tackling the issue of open data and transparency like few counties have, reaching for goals more common in big cities and state government,” wrote Matt Williams in June 18, 2013, in the Digital Counties Survey for Government Technologymagazine. “Backed by a mandate established through local legislation, the County launched a major open government initiative featuring a suite of interconnected web sites designed to offer data sets and engage citizens in conversations, as well as bring them to the County’s mobility, transparency and accountability offerings.”
County Executive Leggett and Chief Information Officer Segal each thought the award supports the efforts the County is making with the openMontgomery initiative.
“We are very pleased to be recognized for our efforts, as increased transparency and better online accessibility to County programs and services are high priorities in this administration,” said County Executive Leggett. “We are working hard to make government more accessible and responsive to the people we serve.”
Montgomery County’s openMontgomery components are hosted in a private cloud—a strategy that is saving the County $2 million a year. The cloud includes more than 100 applications, along with County department and agency data.
In addition to launching openMontgomery in 2012, the County also appointed a chief innovation officer to oversee a formal innovation program; continued to use the data analytics from the CountyStat program to increase accountability and efficiencies; and continued to expand the County fiber network to additional sites, including the public schools and college.