Posted on June 24, 2011 10:04 AM
Supporting Efficient Governance at the Local and State Levels through Open Data, Coordination
GO TO 2040 seeks to increase data sharing, governmental transparency, and intergovernmental collaboration, as well as to remove artificial barriers across programs at the local, regional, state, and federal levels. The State of Illinois, Cook County, and City of Chicago have taken recent steps to support efficient governance by improving access to information and coordinating across government bodies, helping to save money and improve service delivery.
On June 21, 2011, the State of Illinois Open Data Portal website was launched, featuring 48 datasets that focus on the economy, transportation, and the environment. The state data is searchable and can be used for future development of mobile device applications. The portal is an initiative of the new Illinois Innovation Council, which fosters economic development through innovation and public engagement involving industry, academia, developers, and citizens. In its first phase, the site includes 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. Eventually, it will expand to include more data from different state agencies with “the goal of being a comprehensive source of information on how state government operates,” according to this announcement.
In a similar vein, the City of Chicago and Cook County plan to create a shared regional portal with their respective data. This month, the Joint Committee on City-County Collaboration released a report on how the City and County can pool resources, eliminate redundant services, and improve overall service delivery. The two governments’ annual costs total more than $11 billion, and according to the report, their combined budget gaps could be nearly $1 billion. The committee identified $66 million to $140 million in ways to save money while improving service, including the creation of a shared regional data portal. The site would also include opportunities for a public competition to develop data applications.
Chicago has had its own open data portal for almost a year, with 60 to 90 data sets and more on the way. Cook does not yet have a portal, but in May the County Board passed an ordinance requiring the launch of an open data website within 90 days. The Joint Committee’s report recommends that the City and County collaborate on one regional portal that would provide for access to data from both governments, as well as from other organizations like CMAP, the Chicago Transit Authority, and Chicago Public Schools. No other metropolitan region in the U.S. has coordinated this at the local, county, regional, and state levels before, according to the report. Implementation of the project is beginning now, with City and County data being hosted on individual websites, while a third party would host the regional portal.
The report also recommended combining the Chicago, Cook County, and Northern Cook County Workforce Boards into one nonprofit board, as well as expanding the Chicago Workforce Investment Council (CWIC) model county-wide. Currently, each of the three workforce boards is considered an individual Local Workforce Investment Area (LWIA) that receives its own Federal Workforce Investment Act (WIA) funds. The CWIC is a nonprofit created by the Chicago Workforce Board to provide it with staffing, conduct research, and facilitate local coordination. According to the Joint Committee report, by merging the three workforce boards into one LWIA that is served by a countywide version of CWIC, administrative costs would be reduced and services would be improved through better coordination between job seekers, employers, and service providers.
GO TO 2040 recommends better coordination to improve education and workforce development. The region’s network of workforce development services is extremely complex, reflecting the diversity of the groups interested in improving the region’s labor force and the funding streams available for workforce training. This complexity presents a challenge to the efficiency and effectiveness of the workforce development system. Because so many public and private entities operate workforce development programs, service delivery is at best complicated and in some cases duplicative. These problems are exacerbated by limited coordination between the many different workforce programs, each of which operates within its own “silo” of funding and decision making. Job seekers and businesses often have difficulty navigating the maze of systems and programs; due to the variety of organizations offering assistance, there is no comprehensive source of clear, up-to-date information for job seekers and businesses. The same lack of coordinated data and information can be equally problematic for the service providers themselves, as they try to design effective and non-duplicative programs. GO TO 2040 specifically recommends expanding successful workforce development coordination programs, such as expanding the CWIC beyond the City of Chicago, which is exactly what the City and County hope to do.