Simplified, Accessible County Data

August 06, 2020 by Clara Kobashigawa

Montgomery County, Maryland's Open Data Initiative

Simplified, Accessible County Data

In Montgomery County, Maryland, transparency means more than posting Excel files on a website. The county invites all to dive into dynamic, interactive data via dataMontgomery, the county’s open data portal that is recognized among the best in the nation.

One of the county’s first steps toward increased financial transparency was to post budget information including detailed expenditures and revenues for public consumption. This initial action put accurate financial data in the hands of each resident. Because the financial data was displayed in a static format, however, residents still did not have complete ability to fully digest and explore the data. Understanding this, the public spoke up and engaged with county leaders asking them to display useful information in a dynamic, interactive format.

In response to the public’s requests and emergency communication needs, the county leveraged Tyler’s Socrata open data solution to offer interactive information to empowers residents, journalists, community members, issue advocates, and analysts, in addition to county employees to gain new insights about financial data. The solution provides commonly sought information based on area demographics. The end result is an interactive tool simplifying complex government spending data and expanding civic engagement.

interactive tool that simplifies complex government spending data

In addition to sharing financial information, county leaders also needed a method of communicating emergency preparedness and responsiveness to residents. While staff possessed good experience in operating temporary shelters, communicating the status and location of shelters posed a challenge.

Montgomery County used the same open data solution to automate emergency updates and centralize current crisis information for the public. The county transformed data into a real-time map of shelters and other assistance locations during an emergency, as well as state or county road closures. The visualizations also provided details about shelter capacity and pet-friendly locations.

This enhanced way to improve transparency and communicate with residents earned Montgomery County a 2020 Tyler Excellence Award as well as a first-place spot in GovTech’s 2019 Digital Counties Survey.

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