Build Government Trust With Data
May 24, 2022 by Beth Amann
“We could have just said 'give us your open data,' but instead we chose to celebrate the work done by our partners in other departments which hopefully built long-term trust and enabled future conversations.” - Paul Alley
This collaborative approach to data-sharing is how Solutions Architect Paul Alley is building a robust open data repository for King County, Washington. Data.kingcounty.gov includes hundreds of datasets on everything from permits and licensing to pets. Collecting data like this requires partnering with several departments and stakeholders who might not be prioritizing this among their long list of regular work tasks. Knowing the true value of open data, Alley increased the recognition of the need for data-sharing within King County by building trust.
Alley’s approach to providing the community with trustworthy data starts by ensuring trust within government departments. Alley's metrics to consider when working with other departments to publish data: prioritize quality over quantity of datasets, prioritize getting data correctly on the portal, and make sure the owners of the data are the ones publishing it. By using these metrics, open data partnerships become more about celebrating the work done by partners in other departments than it does checking a required box – increasing the likelihood of successful partnerships.
Similarly, the state of Washington is guided by three principles: quality data, user experience, and agency experience. The state partnered with the Washington State Library to create policies around cataloging, adding, and removing data from the open data portal. This unique partnership resulted in a public-facing document that explains the policies so users can trust the collection and removal standards are fair and meet community needs.
Washington’s work was centered on what the user would need, how they would use the data, and what questions they would have. When describing their detailed process, Open Data Librarian Kathleen Sullivan states, “this could sound like overkill ... but it makes you think about how a member of the public is going to use your data.” Their practices ensure all the data hosted on data.wa.gov is current, reliable, relevant, and well-documented.
Transparency for transparency’s sake does not help governments or end users meet their goals. Robust policies to provide transparent understandings of data’s source and use do.