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September 23, 2011
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New and Expanded Data Portals at City, County, and State Levels

Policy challenges cannot be solved — and efficient government operations cannot be achieved — without comprehensive, current, and accurate data resources. Most issues in today's policy and planning environment are fundamentally data-driven and cross-jurisdictional, so understanding them requires a robust sharing of information. Despite legitimate concerns about cost, staff capacity, liability, privacy, and security, local governments have strong incentives to increase the availability of their data. It costs much less than the inefficiency and ineffectiveness of efforts to retrieve data that is not readily accessible. This summer, Cook County, the City of Chicago, and the State of Illinois took positive steps forward in the increased open sharing of data.

On September 21, Cook County launched its Open Data website with more than 75 data sets from over 40 county government departments. The website is intended to improve transparency and accountability of Cook County government, while also providing valuable data resources to the public for civic and other initiatives. Residents have the opportunity to provide feedback and ideas for ways Cook County can improve through the Open Data website, where they can also request additional datasets.

The City of Chicago has greatly expanded the information available on its Data Portal in the past few months. In September, 10 years of detailed crime data was posted from 4.6 million crime incident reports, and the Mayor's Office has released 200 data sets to date, including city contracts, lobbyist disclosures, and salary information. The State of Illinois also launched its Open Data Portal in June, with its first phase including data from the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, the Illinois Department of Revenue, and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

One of the main recommendation areas of GO TO 2040 focuses on improving access to information. The public is demanding access to information at an increasing rate to know their options and to make better informed personal decisions. They are also making these demands of their government. Residents have a strong need for greater governmental transparency based on their right to see how tax dollars are spent, how government operates, and how decisions affecting their lives are made. Accessible public information also spurs economic competitiveness and innovation within the private sector. As part of GO TO 2040's launch, CMAP and The Chicago Community Trust have partnered to create MetroPulse, a regional repository containing quality-of-life indicators that can be used to promote more effective decision making and to track the region's progress in implementing its comprehensive plan.

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