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Open data key to connecting with the public

September 19, 2013

Town, county and city councils have to connect with their constituents on a more personal and meaningful level than state and federal agencies. Being part of the community, and often neighbors with voters, local leaders have to be on the same level with what the public wants, or the backlash will be swift. One of the ways to accomplish this is by embracing the ideals of open data.

Transparency and open government efforts have been integrating open data standards for a while now, ensuring that the public gets real, quick access to the information it wants in a way that makes it available to everyone. From using machine-readable data standards to creating a high-quality portal or website for the community to utilize for reading budget, government meeting minutes and related information, towns counties and cities can ensure that the public is informed and on the same page in all matters.

Local councils in the U.K. have started adopting this policy already, according to The Guardian. The Open Data Institute in London provides key research on the best models and methods of data access, while a national advocacy group, FutureGov, works with towns and counties to ensure they are meeting universal standards for accessibility.

Simply embracing a high-standard of quality of meeting operations and organization will improve open and transparent government efforts. Investing in meeting management software from IQM2, such as agenda management solutions or minutes services, will help keep council members and their topics of discussion organized and on task at all times. With meetings running more efficiently, the data coming out of them will be easier to manage and pass on to the public through portals and databases as well, bringing a local government full circle on transparency efforts.

Open government is a necessity, not a luxury, in today's high-tech world. Even small town officials need to ensure they are meeting the technological and social expectations of citizens and embrace opportunities such as paperless meetings to work more efficiently and cost-effectively toward overall optimization. These efforts will demonstrate to tax payers that their elected officials have their best interests in mind, and are doing their best to meet those interests in a way that won't increase the yearly budget. Transparency is a goal, but technology can help reach it faster than ever before.