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Rewiring Government

The Department of Better Technology helps governments deliver great digital services to the people who depend on them.

Posts tagged with “Open Data”

Interview: David Robinson on ethics and civil rights in a big data world

Quote from David Robinson, excerpted from the transcript below.

In this episode of Rewiring Government, CEO Joshua Goldstein talks to David Robinson, principal at Upturn, about civil rights in the digital age. They cover big data, the ethics ruling company research labs, and ways to hold algorithms accountable, particularly when it comes to poor, vulnerable, or otherwise disadvantaged people.

Use the player above to listen, or subscribe on iTunes and Google Play! You can also add our RSS feed to your favorite podcast app. If you like this episode, rate and review us on iTunes, and tell your friends.

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Interview: Alex Howard on engaging citizens with government and making data meaningful

Quote from Alex Howard, excerpted from the transcript below.

In this episode of Rewiring Government, Josh talks to Alex Howard, a senior analyst at the Sunlight Foundation. They discuss how government harnesses technology to regain trust, the surprisingly meaningful impact of nonprofit tax data, and trends in open government and police accountability.

Use the player above to listen, or subscribe on iTunes and Google Play! You can also add our RSS feed to your favorite podcast app. If you like this episode, rate and review us on iTunes, and tell your friends.

A transcript of the interview is below, edited for content and flow.

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Interview: Justin Erlich on gaining insights from open data

Quote from Justin Erlich, excerpted from the transcript below.

In the first episode of our podcast, Joshua Goldstein, our CEO, talks to Justin Erlich, the Data and Technology Advisor to California Attorney General Kamala Harris. We discuss Kamala Harris’ launch of OpenJustice, one of the most high-profile criminal justice transparency initiatives in the country, especially relevant given the public debate around racial bias in policing.

Use the player above to listen, or subscribe on iTunes and Google Play! You can also add our RSS feed to your favorite podcast app. If you like this episode, rate and review us on iTunes, and tell your friends.

A lightly edited transcript is below.

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The Data Revolution Has a Software Problem

In Dodoma, Tanzania’s administrative capital, a group of visibly frustrated economists and statisticians discussed their work inside a sweltering room. They were from the nearby Singida Region, and they were on the front lines of what UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called the Data Revolution, an effort to find innovative data collection methods that can measure progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

Their day-to-day work is helping to answer an important question. Given primary school enrollment rates, immunization rates, agricultural productivity, and other important quantitative indicators, how well are the people of Singida actually faring?

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Streamlining the Production of Open Data

When I worked at the World Bank, I spent a lot of time helping government agencies harness data to improve delivery of the public services that matter most to citizens. Our clients wanted to access streams of insight to improve decision-making and performance. Around this time, open data portals like Socrata and CKAN were starting to mature, and business dashboards like Geckoboard and Ducksboard were coming onto the market. While the data publication tools had never been better, the data production workflow was slow and inefficient, a cumbersome process that involved messy spreadsheets, Google Docs and manually uploaded .csv files. The open data production process was, and still is, a major barrier to the creation of timely, granular and actionable data.

typical performance dashboard

Today we’re pleased to unveil Open Data Sync, a new Screendoor feature that bridges the gap between data production and data publication. With Socrata Sync, senior managers in government can collect, approve and evaluate data from project teams and sync it to their Socrata Open Data Portal—automatically.

Performance measurement and evaluation is one area where Socrata Sync provides a solution. Chief data officers (CDOs) can work with department heads to define performance indicators in Screendoor and distribute a link to a page where frontline teams can enumerate their progress at regular intervals. Once the data has been collected, CDOs and department heads can review and discuss submissions directly in Screendoor. Upon their approval, the data is instantly pushed to the Open Data Portal. Equipped with up-to-date and widely available data, senior staff can more easily advocate for process change. This is only one use case for Socrata Sync: stay tuned for additional benefits of improving the data production process with Screendoor.

We’re excited to offer Screendoor as a cornerstone element of the data production workflow, replacing brittle spreadsheets and outdated database management systems. Our new feature reduces human or machine errors common in data collection. It also lessens the work required to maintain dashboards for end users. Furthermore, we know the data production process is never static, so we’ve ensured that Screendoor can adapt to a wide array of scenarios, such as new performance indicators, new team members and process changes.

We would love to hear what you think! Send us a message at @dobtco or sign up to create your first Screendoor project.

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The Most Interesting Part of the President's New Open Data Policy

Open Government-land is buzzing about an executive order outlining a new Open Data policy. Here’s my favorite part:

(b) Within 90 days of the issuance of the Open Data Policy, the Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy, Controller of the Office of Federal Financial Management, CIO, and Administrator of OIRA shall work with the Chief Acquisition Officers Council, Chief Financial Officers Council, Chief Information Officers Council, and Federal Records Council to identify and initiate implementation of measures to support the integration of the Open Data Policy requirements into Federal acquisition and grant-making processes. Such efforts may include developing sample requirements language, grant and contract language, and workforce tools for agency acquisition, grant, and information management and technology professionals.

(Emphasis Mine)

Well would you look at that. Maybe the federal government wants to create its own Open RFP Library. Or maybe it’s foreshadowing to an IT overhaul executive order that couples itself with this?

The whole memo is great. Here’s hoping that there’s a way to pay for it. I suspect that most of the things that the White House is asking agencies to do can be done in individual increments, for less than $150,000 – and that they could use RFP-EZ to open the door to a wide swath of new, nimble technology companies to do this work.

What an opportunity.

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