On May 10th, the Data Foundation’s sister organization, the Data Coalition will host the Texas Data Demo Day, where the Lone Star State will showcase its open data portals.
Texas has been on the forefront of opening its data to deliver transparency to the public, outside government, and efficiency for managers and leaders inside government.
Texas.gov and the Texas Comptroller’s website provide Texans with comprehensive, standardized data from across the state’s governments and agencies. Through these portals, citizens can file taxes, track expenditures and revenue (monthly), renew professional licenses, access state Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFRs), and much more.
In 2011, the State prioritized transparency through increasing access to data. These efforts led to Senate Bill 701, signed into law by former Governor Rick Perry. The open data law required state agencies to publish high-value data sets online. The efforts for transparency were reinforced in 2013, when the legislature prompted agencies for descriptions of the data sets and accompanying links that were to be hosted on Texas.gov.
The “official website of the State of Texas”, Texas.gov, is the central hub for information relevant to Texans and visitors. Each section on the website is concise and provides suggested topics based off “most popular” inquiries. This was by design. In 2015, Texas.gov managers employed analytics to determine which website features were most relevant to users and simplified the content. Not only has Texas.gov made state-related information more accessible to citizens, it has provided visitors with a one-stop portal for payments. More than $250 million transactions have been processed through Texas.gov since the website’s 2000 premier, and the State has collected more than $33 billion on behalf of participating state agencies and offices.
Overseeing the public accounts, the Comptroller’s website emphasizes transparency and accessibility. Contractors, vendors, taxpayers, open data enthusiasts, and the like, can each find information on performance measures, grant management, FAQs relating to tax filings, and can satisfy more general curiosities while pulling up data set visualizations. Comptroller Glenn Hegar will deliver a keynote address at the Texas Data Demo Day.
But external transparency is not the only impact of all this work. The state government has discovered that by adopting standardized formats and systematically publishing data assets, internal processes work better, too.
Ed Kelly, the first-ever Statewide Data Coordinator, told StateScoop that state agencies are using the public open data programs as a platform to share data sets that are valuable for multiple agencies’ missions. For example, the state’s agriculture and veterans’ departments realized that the former’s open data on low-income nutrition programs should be shared with the families that the latter serves. Kelly will be speaking at the Texas Data Demo Day, which is sponsored by Grant Thornton Public Sector.
Texans might not know about such behind-the-scenes coordination, but they reap the benefits in the form of better services.
Texas’ economy is the 10th largest in the world generating nearly $1.6 trillion of economic output annually. All this open data sharing is happening on a grand scale.
Texas’s governments, state and local, have connected data across agencies and offices, brought the information to their citizens’ fingertips - and, in the process, made it easier to use for themselves.
It is no understatement to note that the stars of open data shine big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas!