From Data to Transparency in D.C.

The District of Columbia has emerged as a transparency leader.
by | June 3, 2010 AT 3:00 AM

The District of Columbia has emerged as a transparency leader. The now-famous "Apps for Democracy" initiative, which allowed private individuals, students and companies to create open source applications using city data, has been hailed as a breakthrough in transparent government.

But before there was "Apps for Democracy," there was "DC Data Feeds," an initiative to make city data available in usable form to citizens. Spearheaded by the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO), raw data from multiple D.C. government agencies is housed at the District’s Citywide Data Warehouse (CityDW) and supplied via over 320 data feeds to online sites in a variety of technically usable forms.

In this embedded video (4:00), I speak to David Strigel about how D.C. went about making its data accessible -- and its impact on city operations. The DC Data Feeds program was a 2009 Innovations in American Government award winner.

Making raw data publicly available has lessened the burden on city infrastructure. Since its implementation, city administrators report less time spent fielding questions and requests for information. Data feeds also serve as the informational backbone for the city’s CapStat program, an internal performance management system used by the mayor and city officials to track agency performance against established goals.

Such readily available metrics create a culture of accountability that has resulted in improved performance in key areas such as reduced health care wait room times, lower city fixed costs, and institutional improvements in fighting crime.