Open Data in California: Why the State Needs a Unified Strategy for Public Information

For as long as there have been governments, there has been government data. From census information to climate statistics, governments all over the world have been collecting data from all corners to help them perform all manner of administrative duties. Simply put, data is knowledge. Through surveys, monitoring, and statistical analysis, governments gather relevant information from innumerable sources and use this data to decide how to govern appropriately.

Today, as more and more information is collected, there is a growing global movement for governments at all levels to make machine-readable data available to all interested persons. Open data has the potential to enhance government transparency and efficiency as well as create economic development opportunities all over the world -- and this would certainly be the case in California. Thus far, however, California is hardly a pioneer on the open-data frontier: It is not even among the 10 states that have developed open-data policies.

More than any other state, California needs a unified open-data strategy. Such a strategy would be crucial to maintaining the state's position as the nation's leader in cutting-edge technology development. One of California's enduring economic advantages has been the innovative capital found in tech hubs like Silicon Valley. Open data would provide tech-savvy entrepreneurs with the tools they need to open and expand businesses in the state.

We hope this white paper will serve as a guide for state officials to develop an open-data policy that will enhance access to information and improve the lives of all Californians.

Published March 13, 2015