A recently-launched database will give Connecticut citizens unprecedented access to widespread amounts of raw government data, information that has been previously unpublished or buried deep in the recesses of agency websites.
“Sharing data collected by state government will help to break down silos within government, make data more easily available for analysis by researchers and entrepreneurs, and in turn help spur economic growth and creative new policy,” Gov. Dannel Malloy said in a press release. “This data belongs to the people of Connecticut, and this initiative will help make that data more easily and conveniently accessible to them.”
The database, known as the Connecticut Open Data Portal, was launched this past March, just two weeks after Malloy signed Executive Order 39. The executive order sanctioned all governor-appointed executive branch agency heads to begin collecting data in the form of lists, tables, charts, graphs, or other non-narrative forms of a statistical or factual nature.
Broken into 10 different categories on it’s homepage, the portal includes a broad range of data, including information on the population of state correctional facilities, causes of death among Connecticut citizens, chronic absenteeism per district, and personal income tax by town.
According to Executive Director of the Connecticut Data Collaborative Rob Santy, the portal will provide a significant increase in government accountability and potentially alter the future course of federal government.
“The database shows how the government is expending public resources and whether or not there is there duplication,” Santy said. “We’re trying to change the culture of government and the mindsets people who work the data within the government to say that this is data that public has right to access.”
Santy also vouched for the value of the municipal data contained in the database.
“There’s a lot of accountability on the municipal side,” Santy said. “We’re going to be able to compare our expenditures — fires services, for example — to those of another town. If we’re a similar town with a similar populace and the town in comparison is using their budget more efficiently, maybe we need to be spending or saving in certain areas.”
The portal’s Chief Data Officer and Connecticut Office of Policy and Management Representative Tyler Kleykamp agreed, adding that the site comes in lieu of several new requirements regarding the transparency of municipal data, such as regulations on how towns must report their budget numbers and pension liability.
Aside from increased transparency, many expect the database to aid the state’s small businesses. According to Kleykamp, the site could help spur entrepreneurial opportunities for companies that rely on local government and property information.
State Rep. Toni Walker added that the pool has the ability to trigger more business start-ups.
“This is a small, business-friendly action that will pay huge dividends for companies looking to grow,” Walker said in a statement.
Though most of the information available in the portal was previously accessible to the public, its residency within various corners of the Internet rendered the average citizen generally incapable of gathering and analyzing sought-after data.
While the wide accessibility of the portal will mainly benefit larger data-collecting organizations such the Connecticut Data Collaborative, citizens from other states with open data platforms have proved that the general public can work the system to their own advantage. In Chicago, one citizen developed a Flu Shot App that helps Chicagoans find their nearest flu shot clinic to get vaccinated using the city health data available on that state’s open data portal.
According to Kleykamp, the public can also use the database’s interactive map function to find local services, such as the locations of DMV offices and farmers markets. While Santy said that the agency data officers should “really work” to provide the public with the data they are clamoring for, Kleykamp conceded that the law will only allow so much.
“We are extra conservative when it comes to data,” Kleykamp said.