From Public Access to Open Government: Access to GIS Data
Robert Goodspeed, PhD Student, MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Submitted for publication to URISA Journal, January 2011
Increasingly citizens are demanding access of raw data from governments to look up facts, hold them accountable, conduct analysis, or create innovative applications and services. Cities and towns create information for geographic information systems such as parcels, zoning, and infrastructure that are useful for a wide range of purposes. Through a public records request to all 351 Massachusetts municipalities, this paper investigates whether this data is accessible to citizens in practice. In an apparent violation of the law, two municipalities refused access to electronic records. Many others charged fees ranging up to $453 or placed burdensome legal restrictions on the data that could chill or prohibit creative reuses of the data through emerging technologies. Other practical barriers, such as limited technical knowledge or resources and outsourcing to private vendors, restricted public access to data. Most troubling, 23.2% of municipalities did not respond with 29 days, nearly three times the legally mandated 10-day response time. Finally, the paper discusses legal, policy, and technical steps that can be taken by governments to move from a “public records” to an “open government” paradigm for transparency of government data. The policy recommendations for municipalities include publishing GIS data for free online, and with minimal legal restrictions.
For full text of the article, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, click here.
- EFF Urges California Court to Grant Public Access to Electronic Mapping Data (eff.org)
- OUR VIEW | Alarming language in proposed public records reforms (kitsapsun.com)
- Report – An Open Government Implementation Model: Moving to Increased Public Engagement (bespacific.com)
- A new sunshine law to save money for citizens and government agencies (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- The Revolution Will Be Mapped | Smart Journalism. Real Solutions. Miller-McCune. (miller-mccune.com)
- N.J. Supreme Court Lowers Copy Costs (gloucestercitynews.net)
- Public-record bills will be hot topic in Olympia (kitsapsun.com)
- Google Apps Now Allows Panama City to Promote Open Government (backupify.com)
- What Else Is Wrong With Government 2.0 (whimsley.typepad.com)
Tags: city, Data Access, Electronic Records, FOIA, FOIL, Freedom of Information, Freedom of information legislation, geographic information system, Geography, GIS, Government agency, Intellectual Property, Law, Legal, MA, Massachusetts, municipal, Open Government, Open Records, Policy, Public Records, Social Sciences, Transparency, URISA
Dr. Lea Shanley is the founder and former co-Chair of the Federal Community of Practice on Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science, a vibrant community of 200 federal employees from more than 35 agencies. She is also a co-founding member of the Citizen Science Association. Dr. Shanley recently served as a Presidential Innovation Fellow at NASA, where she helped to foster a culture of open innovation. Prior to this, she founded and directed the Commons Lab at the Wilson Center, served in the US Senate as a Congressional Science Fellow, and worked with local and tribal communities to develop GIS-based decision support systems for city planning, natural resource management, coastal management, and disaster response through the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Disclaimer: This is a personal blog of links to relevant news, events, and reports, provided for educational purposes only. The opinions and views contained therein are those only of the authors of the original articles. These opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the editor of this blog or or associated organizations.
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