Originally posted at CA Fwd.
By Alexandra Bjerg.

Local governments collect an enormous amount of data, on everything from potholes to business permits, and in recent years, have made vast troves of this information publicly available. Yet, local government employees and the constituents they serve often don’t know what types of data agencies collect or where to find it.

In an effort to help unleash the power of open data to transform government, drive economic growth, and rebuild public trust, legislation introduced by Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) would make it easier for citizens, journalists, and business owners find the information they need. Leading CA Fwd’s government transparency effort, Robb Korinke answered a few questions about how SB 272, scheduled to be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee Monday, would bolster local government transparency.

What is the goal of SB 272 and how does it aim to achieve it?

SB 272 would require local government agencies to create catalogs of the information systems used to manage data and make that information available to the public under the California Public Records Act. The bill would require the catalog to disclose a list of the enterprise systems used by the agency, and, among other things, the current system vendor and product. By doing so, SB 272 will reveal how accessible and usable this information is for analysis by other public agencies and the general public.

Why should California require local government agencies to create public catalogs of their data systems and all the datasets they maintain?

Inventories are the established first step in any open data initiative, and have been conducted broadly in cities, states and at the federal level. The catalogue proposed by SB 272 is a manageable step for local agencies that realizes a lion share of benefits from a comprehensive inventory.

What are the potential benefits of creating a public inventory of data sets and systems maintained by local governments?

The potential for accessing this data is enormous—cities, counties and other local agencies hold a vast amount of information on local businesses and other core economic indicators. This data also has tangible value to software and other application developers seeking to better connect Californians with info and services about their communities.

Smarter governments work better and inspire confidence in those they serve, strengthening the connection between government and the people. SB 272 hopes to allow both government and the public to better understand how local government serves all Californians.