The application process is rigorous but if accepted, Code for America would help St. Louis County develop innovative methods of compiling and disseminating data.
St. Louis County Executive Charlie A. Dooley and St. Louis City Mayor Francis Slay have submitted a City-County application for Code for America. This is a tremendous step in changing the landscape of access to government data in the region.
For more than five years, Code for America (CfA) has helped simplify data barriers between the government and the public. For the same amount of time, the County has been recognizing and working thru the need for innovative data access. There have been discussions about CfA amongst data-minded County employees since the first CfA fellowship launch in 2011. The County’s execution of the current application for a 2015 fellow started in December 2013.
CfA is a non-profit entity and enables its fellows, which consists of developers, designers and other IT professionals, to complete one year of public service in a region solving its data-driven problems. Being selected as a host area is a process all in its own. Communities across the nation submit proposals as to how the fellows can be of service and the selection process begins.
“If selected, Code for America will enable St. Louis County and the region to improve upon its strengths and begin to correct data challenges,” County Executive Dooley said. “More government entities are practicing open data standards compiling information for the public in user accessible and machine-readable formats.”
The public benefits by being able to access their local government services and information at its leisure, and through the internet in an easy-to-use and understandable manner. The City of Chicago recently looked at Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that were most prevalent and moved that information to an open data portal. This made the information easier to find for citizens but also reduced workload on employees. In just nine months, the city saw a 65 percent drop in the number of FOIA requests for records in the Department of Public Health.
Adopting open data policies means a higher level of transparency, efficiency and collaboration. As well, St. Louis County could begin automating more service requests and even predict more accurately when services will be needed.
Should CfA not select the County’s application, progress won’t stop. County Executive Dooley said the County is constantly improving upon its data.
“Kudos to our intradepartmental data team which has helped to begin framing a process for identifying internal needs,” he said. “Employees from departments including comprehensive planning, the GIS research divisions, along with the County’s Chief Information Officer Mike Duncan and his IT staff, have worked on a solid plan for our CfA application and the County’s data future.”