County Shows Off New Open Data Program
Montgomery County officials Wednesday touted a just launched collection of websites that will allow residents to search employee salary figures, county contracts, budgets and numerous other data sets. The county's Open Data program is meant to allow for greater transparency and to encourage innovation, such as smartphone app development using the government data. "No county in the United States has received more awards for innovation and technology leadership than Montgomery County," said Dr. Alan Shark, executive director of the Public Technology Institute. "So that to me says an awful lot. This puts things together in a way that very very few communities have done. It's on par with every major city in the country." The Open Data program includes four online components: Access Montgomery for questions on Ride On bus routes, trash collection and other services, Data Montgomery for data sets including salary listings and detailed budget expenditures, Engage Montgomery to ask questions of residents on specific issues and Mobile Montgomery to introduce smartphone apps already available. "We will be able to have residents participating in discussion and debate and get a better understanding of their priorities," said Councilman Hans Riemer, (D-At large) of Silver Spring, who yesterday saw his Open Data legislation approved. "Like a lot of councilmembers I use Facebook for this already. If I'm thinking about an issue I ask a question on my website and we have a great discussion and I learn a lot. I take a temperature. This is going to systemize that ...kind of participation." Riemer's legislation requires the county to upload data onto the new websites, to develop an implementation plan and to publish results from any Maryland Public Information Act request. Riemer and Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac) praised County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) for his office's efforts in implementing the system. "There are some of us that are old enough that when people talk about the cloud, we get a little confused, or when people talk about platform we go, 'OK, is this the subway platform?' So there are many of us who we really don't know what we're talking about," said Berliner, who asked Riemer to take the lead on the council portion of the initiative. "This really does make a big difference in terms of what Montgomery County is, how we relate to our people, how we create economic opportunities, how we're democratizing economic opportunity by creating the basis for which every citizen can help us, help themselves and grow our economy."