Make data accessible.
Problem: Many local governments do not make their public data easily accessible.
Solution: Acquire public data and make it easily accessible.
Example: Hamden Open Data Portal
1. Request & acquire data
State Freedom of Information laws typically require governments to provide public information and records to anyone upon request.
Some governments have an email address or form on their website to submit a public records request. If you are unable to find how to submit a public records request with your local government, contact the clerk’s office.
Be sure to submit your request in writing.
Although not usually required by law, you should request the data in a standard open format (CSV, for example).
2. Format data
If you received the data in a standard format, great! You may not have to do anything prior to publication.
However, depending on the system the data was extracted from or the inclination of the government employee, you may receive the data back in a format difficult to work with and analyze, like PDF.
If you receive a PDF, you should convert it to a more manageable format like CSV.
3. Create portal
There’s no need to get fancy. Create a simple website to host the data. The minimum viable product for an Open Data portal is a list of links to data sets with a brief description. This could be something as basic as a publicly shared Google sheets document with a column of links and description of each data set.
Other portals like Socrata and OpenDataSoft offer useful features for some users like like visualizations and API access. However, these often cost tens of thousands of dollars and the main value they add is access to the data you’re providing at a measly fraction of that cost or free!
4. Publish data
Upload the data to a publicly accessible hosting site or cloud service and link to them on the portal you created.
Be sure to include a brief description of the data set including the source and the last updated date.
If you had to format or convert the data, provide the original file that was received for download as well for comparison.
It is recommended that you do not aggregate or run analysis on the raw data set prior to publishing it on the Open Data portal. This allows record level data to be analyzed by other users more authentically without prior interpretation.