Posted: July 27, 2023
I gave this statement today, in response to a recent audit of the City of Austin Open Data Portal. There will be video. I’ll link it in a couple days, once posted.
My name is Courtney Rosenthal. My pronouns are she/her/hers.
I am speaking on behalf of Open Austin. We are a local non-profit that addresses social and civic challenges through creative uses of technology.
I’m the project lead for our open data initiative. For over a decade, Open Austin has worked closely with the city on a number of issues, including the city’s open data effort.
Back in 2011, the city council adopted an open government resolution that called for the establishment of an open data portal. It was a bold new idea that government would aggregate and publish its data directly to the public. Open Austin worked closely with staff to encourage city departments to embrace this initiative and publish their data – as much as they can – on the portal.
In July of this year, the city completed an audit of the open data portal. It counted over 4,600 published assets – nearly a thousand more than any other city surveyed. Thanks to the work of many city departments, the original open data vision has been realized.
Unfortunately, the audit identified some concerns with the data being published.
Although we are publishing a large quantity of data, not all may be of value to the public.
Also, the audit identified issues relating to the quality of the data, such as: data missing, data dirty, published data not matching internal data, formatting and presentation issues.
The audit also found that Austin does not have a designated executive, such as a Chief Data Officer, responsible for the content in the data portal.
Open Austin supports two key actions to address these concerns. First, we support an update of the city’s 2013 open data policy to include objectives for the value and quality of data assets. Also, we support the appointment of a Chief Data Officer, to oversee this work.
Austin has successfully developed a leading open data portal. It is a significant resource to the community. Now, let us take the next step, to deliver increased transparency and value to the public.