Economist Quote
Source: The Economist.

Introduction

Local government collects all kinds of information: construction permits, number of inmates held, animal control intakes, expenditures and salary data to name just a few. Henderson County and the City of Henderson need to join the open data movement by making as much of this information available to the public as possible.

According to the website GovLab, “[c]onsiderable attention has been devoted to the economic potential of open data for businesses and other organizations, and it is now widely accepted that open data plays an important role in spurring innovation, growth, and job creation.” Open data is a new phenomena whose genesis dates to 2006-07.

The McKinsey Report

Entitled “Open Data: Unlocking Innovation and Performance with Liquid Information,” the McKinsey report described the economic impact of open data. McKinsey adopted the term “liquid” as opposed to “open” to emphasize open, widely-available and shareable data formats.

As of 2013, 90,000 data sets were included on the United States website and McKinsey estimated that three trillion in annual value could be enabled by open data. Open data has the potential to unlock large amounts of economic value, by improving the efficiency and effectiveness of existing processes; making possible new products, services, and markets; and creating value for individual consumers and citizens.

Louisville’s Open Data Initiative

Open data is not an abstract concept, but is being promoted by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Smart Cities Initiative at Harvard. Even Kentucky is participating in the open data movement. Mayor Greg Fisher of Louisville is a champion of the open data movement. A copy of the Jefferson County Metro Government resolution can be found here. The latest check of Louisville’s open data portal showed a total of 163 data sets available. The data sets included diverse topics like Assaulted Officers and Open Burning Permits.

Having H.E.A.R.T.

Open data is also being furnished on local government. Recently, the Henderson County Attorney’s office began its own experiment in making county financial data available to the public by adding a page to its website. Referred to as the Henderson Expense and Revenue Trends Database (“H.E.A.R.T.”). This initiative was in response to the county’s fiscal challenges in 2015. Local initiatives like these are possible and should be commended and expanded.

Steve Gold Heart Program
Source: Henderson County Attorney H.E.A.R.T. Program.

Resources

U.S. Government Open Data

Socrata

Louisville Open Data Portal

Data for Democracy

Louisville Open Data Executive Order

McKinsey Report on Open Data

World Bank – Open Data for Economic Growth

Questions

Have you ever wanted to send an Open Records Request to local government?

What information might local government have that you’d like to know about?

Is there local government data that is potentially valuable to someone?

Have you ever wanted to know what a government employee earns?

Summary

More and more governments are making data available everyday and while Henderson County and the City of Henderson make some available, it should be expanded and made easily accessible through their websites. Kentucky could learn plenty too. While the state publishes reams of data, too often the data in unfriendly formats like pdf. When data is made available to the public, grass roots insight, activism, entrepreneurship and accountability are possible. These can be the drivers of future economic growth and help Henderson regain its swagger.