DataOhio Reintroduced To Encourage Public Record Data Online
DataOhio assigned as House Bill 3
February 07, 2017
 
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COLUMBUS - 

Last week, on February 1st, 2017, State Representatives Mike Duffey (R-Worthington) and Christina Hagan (R-Alliance) re-introduced DataOhio, transparency legislation that twice passed the Ohio House and which seems to have inspired Governor Kasich to follow suit with government data initiatives in his proposed budget.


DataOhio has been assigned as House Bill 3, indicating that the legislation is a priority proposal.  DataOhio is supported by the Ohio Newspaper Association, the Ohio Auditor of State, the Ohio Municipal League, the State Librarian, several economists, the national Data Coalition and even received a letter of support for the principle of open government data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.


House Bill 3, also known as DataOhio, would establish standards for government data public records that would allow “apples to apples” comparisons as well as encourage conversion of difficult-to-find government records into easily accessible and machine-readable formats that can streamed to mobile apps, researchers, new websites and Ohio citizens.


One example of the benefit of DataOhio’s new standards could include an “apples to apples” comparison of spending on road salt, for example, across Ohio’s 1,300+ townships and 900+ municipalities.  Another example would be the ability to look at election results across the state in “real time” as they are published by 88 county boards of election.  A third example would be the ability to examine Medicaid statistics alongside county health programs using graphical representations such as pie charts that are updated automatically without needing additional spending on human labor to upload the data each month.


If enacted, DataOhio offers the potential to save Ohio taxpayers millions of dollars per year by eliminating repetitive tasks that are currently completed “by hand” by government employees, financial auditors and researchers.  Currently, these professionals often must reprocess paper and PDF documents into ordinary spreadsheets, with no centralized clearinghouse to eliminate duplicative work. Under DataOhio, new formats will allow this data to be downloaded automatically as it is updated, without human labor, and to make this data available to the public, benefiting journalists and small technology startups who can utilize the data.


Additionally, the bill could also help save taxpayer dollars by simplifying state financial audits.                          


“Ohio’s citizens deserve to be able to see what government is doing quickly and without a lot of hassle,” said Duffey. “DataOhio will allow ordinary citizens to access government data more quickly, and at the same time, it will benefit journalists, researchers and even technology startups working to create jobs.”


“DataOhio will make it easier to quickly and effectively obtain public information,” said Hagan. “It is important that the public has confidence in our state and local governments, and I believe that providing greater, clearer access to data will provide much-needed transparency.”


DataOhio consists of four primary components:


1. A newly created DataOhio Board will allow diverse array of government agencies and the private sector to meet regularly to establish improved standards for how public records are organized and made available online using “open formats.”                                                                                                      


2.  The State Auditor will be tasked with the creation of voluntary, simplified accounting methods for public offices, allowing “apples-to-apples” comparisons of spending data among Ohio’s various cities, counties and townships.


3.  A simple, easy-to-find online catalog of public data, located at data.ohio.gov, will function as a quick access portal, saving researchers, journalists and ordinary citizens hours of effort searching for public data.                           


4.  As an incentive for local governments be more comfortable with publishing data online, the bill provides a framework for $10,000 micro-grants to local governments if they successfully provide a small subset of data to the public.


Taken together, these four components lay the foundation for Ohio citizens to have much easier access to public records, and would allow researchers to use their mobile phones or laptop computers to search rather than formally requesting hardcopies of public records.  Small startup companies in Ohio could also use the data to create jobs in information technology.


A number of other states have implemented open data policies similar to DataOhio, including Texas, Illinois, Rhode Island, Utah, New York, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Maryland.

 
 
 
  
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