This is the briefing document I've provided for prospective lead legislative sponsors (see questions and comments below):
Along with a number of other open government advocates, I've launched a campaign to put a definition of "open data online" into California and San Francisco law. The issue is that often when documents and data are published online, they cannot be accessed or used in a meaningful fashion because they cannot be searched, indexed by Google, or combined in a meaningful way with other documents for analysis. I want to tackle this not by mandating that certain documents and data be published online, but simply by creating a reference standard so that when new mandates pass, or new documents are published online as a matter of course under existing law or regular business, they are in accessible formats.
This has the benefits of making things easier for people who use screen readers, for developer who want to use public data to build applications, for transparency advocates, and is simply good policy. Publishing data in formats that can't be searched, compared to other documents or reused in a meaningful way is as useless as keeping it tucked away in an obscured file cabinets. Publishing in accessible formats online is as simply as education employees in how to properly save and store documents for online publication using the same software they already have on their computers. In an ironic demonstration of the current problem, San Francisco's current open data law was published by the Board of Supervisors as an unsearchable PDF.
Proposal: San Francisco/California Open Data Standard
Draft Text: Heretoforth, any documents or data published online by the State of California/City and County of San Francisco and its employees, departments and agencies must be published in a structured format that can be retrieved, downloaded, indexed, sorted, searched, and reused by commonly used Web search applications and commonly used software.
California/San Francisco would further cement its leadership position as one of the global leaders in open government and accessibility by adopting this standard. It is derived from model open government legislation proposed by the global CityCamp movement (http://opengovernmentinitiative.org/directive/v1/
). Much of the existing open data legislation from around the world lacks simple and clear standards definitions such as this (http://wiki.civiccommons.org/Open_Data_Policy
). Creating this standard would be the foundation for ensuring that future laws around publication of State/CCSF documents are meaningful. See also background on open data standards around the world:http://wiki.civiccommons.org/Open_Standards_Policy
Associated costs: None, and possibility of savings. This standards legislation would not create a new mandate for publication, rather it would give clear guidance on how data is to be published - using commonly accessible formats without requiring a specific format that could be outdated by technological developments. Passage of this law would reduce the burden of reformatting documents to comply with records requests as documents published under this standard would be easily accessible. It also has the benefit of opening government data to innovators from around the world to build useful applications using public data.
Early support: Since we publicly launched a campaign to enshrine this standard into law in SF and California on Nov. 16, 2011, we have seen significant support across social media channels, and endorsements from open government leaders from San Francisco, California and around the world, including:
- Javier Muniz, CTO and co-founder, Granicus (based in SoMa and one of the greatest open gov tech company success stories in the U.S.)
- Steve Ressler, founder, GovLoop
- Rep. Jason Murphey, Chairman of the House Goverment Modernization Committee, Oklahoma
- Scott Primeau, OpenColorado
- Luke Frewell, founder and publisher, GovFresh
- and many more who can be viewed online - http://www.wiredtoshare.com/structured_open_data_campaign
The legislative proposal is also supported by CityCampSF, Gov 2.0 Radio, GovFresh and the SF Tech Dems.