Connecting state and local government leaders

There Are Risks and Benefits When Opening Up Your Data

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Albuquerque, New Mexico trekandshoot /


Connecting state and local government leaders

And more state and local governments should consider return on investment when deciding when to publish datasets.

The city of Albuquerque assesses the return on investment of its datasets before deciding to publish, one reason for its open data initiative’s success, according to city Application Development Manager Mark Leech.

Leech, who helps track citizen records requests, evaluates the benefits, risks and costs of producing data based on their intrinsic or extrinsic relationship to government. For example, publicizing the location and availability of public spaces would reduce inquiries to the city internally while increasing visitors externally.

Even an informal ROI assessment is a good reality check for government.

“We’ve lost the moral debate if we use legislation only to compel,” Leech writes in a recent Sunlight Foundation blog post. “Instead, let’s use tools like ROI to make doing the right thing the only logical choice.”

A net-negative result doesn’t necessarily mean a dataset shouldn’t be released, but a mitigation plan might need to be developed or the date of publication rescheduled.

Without an exercise in ROI, cities caught up in an open data push might prematurely produce data while failing to provide context or tie it to government performance, Leech says:

A dataset now no longer exists in isolation: It is part of something bigger. It has increased value because we’re considering it as part of the overall service that the city provides in response to a specific community problem.

Showing the good opening a dataset will do through an ROI analysis also improves agency compliance because employees are made to see the benefits.

Read Leech’s entire case for government ROI data assessments here.

Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty.

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