Open Data has the potential to transform government across California, and cities from San Diego to San Jose are making strides in leveraging data for better operations and communications. But what if the data tide stops at the large, coastal cities? We only realize the true benefits of Open Data if it is broadly adopted, and driven by the state’s diverse regions.
When California Forward (CA Fwd) conceived of the Open Data Roadshow, the need to bring tools and knowledge to all California communities was a driving principle of the program. This is why the first forum was held in San Bernardino, and why the Roadshow traveled this week to the Central Valley.
More than 30 civic and business leaders, including representatives of cities, school districts and water agencies all attended the February 4 Civic Data Forum, held at UC Merced’s Small Business Development Center in Fresno. Presented in partnership with the SBDC and the Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley, CA Fwd convened leading data experts from around the state to discuss how Open Data can benefit the Central Valley on issues including public health, economic development and financial stewardship.
Robert Tse of the USDA, an expert on rural economic development, broadband and other key issues kicked off the event by reviewing the Rural-Urban Connections Strategy (RUCS) system, which was developed at the regional level in Sacramento and provides localities with means to evaluate land use decisions with advanced computer modeling.
Attendees also heard from civic tech leaders OpenCounter and OpenGov, which deal with permit streamlining and government financial data, respectively. City of Fresno IS Manager Eddie Hughes discussed Fresno’s own use of OpenGov, which has allowed the city to broadly communicate city revenues and expenditures and visualize this information like never before.
Also present was Andy Krackov of the California Healthcare Foundation, which has supported the State’s health data portal at health.data.ca.gov. Krackov outlined his organization’s plans to engage on Valley health issues, and specifically in the Fresno area.
Finally, the director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz), Kish Rajan–also a major supporter of Open Data and CA Fwd’s regional work on the issue–addressed participants on the potential for data to transform local economies, and promote job growth in a range of industries.
Fresno’s event was the fourth in CA Fwd’s series of regional events on Open Data. Hundreds of local officials, including mayors, councilmembers, city managers, school board members and local business leaders have attended these events.
CA Fwd’s efforts at the regional level are done with a purpose, to build momentum for state level action on Open Data and connect local agencies with people and tools needed to benefit from emerging practices in data management and analytics.
With respect to building momentum, CA Fwd believes this is having a substantial impact. Private firms such as OpenCounter and OpenGov – and many more – are signing dozens of California cities onto their platforms, and cities are increasingly incorporating data strategies into policy implementation.