Could it be a sign that open data is going mainstream in Ohio? I wouldn’t jump to that conclusion just yet but I do feel confident that it’s coming.
Up until now, media coverage of civic (think public and government) open data-related news has been primarily about sunshine laws, public records and open meetings. The media has also found good copy in reporting on the scope of the state Auditor’s audits (most notably perhaps around JobsOhio but more recently about his desire to make “findings of abuse”) and the state Treasurer’s online checkbook and effort to get local governments onboard the financial transparency train. Last year, what is now Ohio House Bill 130, the Data Ohio legislation, received a decent amount of attention and passed the House but did not get through the Senate (it was a package of bills, HB 321 through 324). It hasn’t received much attention yet this year but is winding its way through the Ohio House, with testimony from one of Ohio’s most knowledgeable local government and data experts, Portage County CIO, Brian Kelley.
But as action in Ohio – like the checkbook and extensive data requirements in the U.S. Department of Justice consent decree with the City of Cleveland over its police department – has risen, so has the media coverage. And this transparency and openness about transparency and openness is welcome. This morning, WCPN had a snippet that was more than just earned media for the Ohio checkbook: it included broader analysis of the role of open data in government. Then, tonight (in Columbus) and on Sunday (in Cleveland), the entire State of Ohio show will be dedicated to a discussion about civic open data with OpenNEO represented and Catherine Turcer from Common Cause Ohio.
Earlier this week, the Plain Dealer published in print and online, an oped by the group, Hack Cleveland. They write about the role of civic hacking in helping to Fix 216, their hackathon that starts this evening in Cleveland and lasts through the day tomorrow (you can go here to check registration availability). (Civic hacking is taking community desires and needs into account as you look at open data and tech to problem solve.)
Why does media coverage matter? First, it’s validation that the topic is news. Of course we wish that the civic infrastructure of open data was so default and embedded in our culture that it wasn’t news per se, but for now, another reason why the coverage matters is exposure. More media coverage of open data in the public sector means more people are hearing the terms, getting familiar with them and learning that data isn’t just for scientists and finance folks.
As I wrote yesterday, data isn’t just for catching people doing stuff you don’t want them to do or that breaks the law or embarrasses them in an attempt to make you look better. Open data has many benefits and hopefully the media will continue to take notice and report on how a complete open data ecosystem in Ohio at all levels of government will benefit all of us.