Data for All: Connecticut’s Push Toward Open Information

Connecticut is getting on board with the open data movement that’s sweepidatang federal, state and municipal governments across the nation. Thanks to Governor Dannel Malloy’s recent announcement of Executive Order 39, the state of Connecticut will soon be launching the new Connecticut Open Data Portal which will serve as an online repository for data collected across all state agencies. The Portal will aim to increase transparency and confidence in the work our State agencies do by making all data that is not specifically protected by disclosure available to the public in its rawest form. Connecticut’s effort to democratize its data follows on the heels of several high-profile federal initiatives like and the White House’s Open Government Initiative. In addition, 39 states and 44 cities across the country have adopted open data policies.

But what exactly is open data and how does its emergence on the public scene impact the average citizen? “Open data” is the idea that certain data should be freely accessible to everyone to use and republish as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control. Give the public their data and they will run with it. And, in theory, the more the public consumes the data, the better the data will become, resulting in more useful applications and better outcomes. Opening data to the masses has the power to transform agendas, spur innovation, increase workflow efficiency, improve public services, reduce costs and encourage data-driven decision making by citizens, policy advocates and public officials alike.

Connecticut’s Open Data Portal is still in its infancy. In fact, if you visit the website you will be greeted only by a “coming soon” sign. But the potential is there and the excitement among eagerly waiting audiences is palpable. Other efforts at the state level to share data and information to this point have been a huge success. One example of this is the Connecticut Environmental Conditions Online (CTECO) website, a partnership between CLEAR and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. CTECO serves the people of Connecticut by providing much of the state’s geospatial information in a variety of formats including static maps, map viewers, data guides and data download. In 2013, the website received over 45,000 visits from public officials and private citizens. If the success of CTECO is any indication, the Connecticut Open Data Portal is poised to be one of the most widely used resorces in the state.

Data available on the new Portal will come from every state agency and will cover a vast range of topics including social services, public health, education, transportation, public safety and environmental quality. Ideally, the Data Portal will not only provide access to the raw quantitative data, but will also give citizens access to tools to search, sort, filter and visualize it down to the community and even neighborhood level.  Access to information on this level will be unprecedented in the state of Connecticut. It’s more than enough to make any journalist, entrepreneur, public official, scholar or policy maker stand and take notice. And that, for certain, is a good sign for the people of Connecticut.

For more information, visit:
Executive Order 39
Connecticut Open Data Portal
Map and Overview of Open Data Law is the US – Sunlight Foundation
Beyond Transparency: Open Data and the Future of Civic Innovation
Connecticut Environmental Conditions Online – A partnership project between UConn CLEAR and CT DEEP