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Data doesn't equal transparency

August 22, 2013

Simply offering open access to data isn't the same as embracing the tenets of transparency and open government, but it's a good start.

Nashua, N.H., recently discovered this fact when it released several boxes full of data on a city improvement project aimed at repairing and revitalizing the city's sidewalks. The Nashua Telegraph requested specific information from the city council, including who has been doing the work and a month-by-month break down of the costs, however the data provided by the city didn't answer the questions. Rather, it clouded the issue by providing too much information which required the requester - the newspaper - to sort through and organize it.

The problem here may have been in wording - the news paper requested the data in its "native form," which the city took to mean all information related to the project, even worker timecards. However, it is an issue that can easily be eliminated by investing in a high-quality information and legislative management solution from IQM2. By improving the organization of data on the official end, councils will be able to supply requesters with the information they need, not a massive amount of paperwork that will only serve to confuse them.

Improving the technology used to organize data, such as meeting management software, will help town, city and county officials provide real open and transparent government services, rather than potentially clouding up the questions and issues further by overloading requesters with data they don't need. However, open access to data is still an important facet of transparency, government offices simply need to use intelligent processes manage that information.