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The role of data in government transparency

Richard Jones Archive

Many citizens believe that gathering accurate data and analyzing it correctly is the key to making significant improvements to the local, state and federal governments. If public officials are able to collect information on their most important programs and use it to analyze their operations, they would likely be able to take steps forward.

Unfortunately, many people lack faith in their government leaders, and they've begun to demand transparency with public data. If institutions open their books and share their information with the world, people will know the truth about everything from funding to data quality.

Transparency is becoming increasingly important. It helps instill faith in the government among citizens everywhere. If public offices want to accomplish more with data, they should focus on transparency in addition to accuracy.

Parul Bhandari, government industry solutions lead at Microsoft, works closely with governments worldwide to develop IT strategies for more transparent and open governments. She explained in a recent blog post that a new approach to data management is essential for public institutions.

"Government agencies need to transform the way they relate to their data and their constituents, and honestly evaluate their own performance," Bhandari wrote. "This starts with rethinking the role that data plays in day-to-day operations. Until very recently, governments were expected to be the sole owners of public information - today, governments are expected to provide near-complete transparency to public records."

A greater focus on accurate and transparent data could mean big things for local governments especially. There are a variety of areas where improvements could be made. For example, police departments could channel data quality into better strategies for preventing crime, or educators could use it to bring up test scores. Transportation authorities could keep the buses running on time. If government officials share all of these plans with the outside world, that effort will win them a great deal of support from the citizenry.