County Encourages Input at Open Data Town Hall (Video)
Tables with large pads of paper served as empty canvases for local residents to write their ideas for the county data they’d like access to online.
The event was the county’s first “Open Data Town Hall” and it brought a crowd of people to the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center on the anniversary of the open data program’s launch, taking the next step in shining a light on new ways to explore and use the county’s public data.
“We want to be an open government,” said Dan Hoffman. “It’s pretty resource intensive to get these published so we want to get input before we start taking a kitchen sink approach to publishing data.”
Chief Information Officer Sonny Segal said the county is going through more than 800 systems, applications and interfaces to mine and prepare data for new open data projects to help the government become more transparent.
“We are taking our open government program to be a partnership it’s not entirely a government endeavor,” Segal said. “We have actually the public’s data that we’re responsible for but it’s really the public who can help us put this data together to make a bigger composite that actually results in meaningful services.”
While the idea of an “open government” isn’t a new idea, the thought of a “town hall” to include residents in the planning process is an innovation brainstormed by Hoffman in order to take the county’s open data program to a new level.
Representatives from the Sunlight Foundation attended the county meeting to help residents get the most out of their government with this unique opportunity to speak up.
“I’m here because I am trying to spread open data all around the country and Montgomery County’s doing a great job in DC’s backyard,” said Rebecca Williams, Policy Analyst for the Sunlight Foundation. “I want to see citizens of Montgomery County get really excited about open data the way I’m excited about open data. I think this is the first step in many open data town halls and then figuring out how to engage with folks that can’t make it to these sorts of events like either online or through other events.”
So what’s the most frequent request for data? Hoffman said it’s mostly the information related to daily life. Information that many local residents believe should be available at their fingertips.
“People love transit data and people also love crime data. Everybody has to commute for the most part and everybody’s effected by police, fire and rescue so those are typically the most popular.”
Find more information on the county’s open data platform “dataMontgomery” here.
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