Ensuring that government data are open and accessible is a key method to improve government accountability, promote efficiency, and drive innovation and economic growth. State level results, however, have been scattered. In 2010, after a meeting of 30 open government advocates, the Sunlight Foundation published “Ten Principles for Opening Up Government Information,” as a road map “to evaluate the extent to which government data is open and accessible to the public.” These principles cover common-sense goals such as making sure all data are complete, timely, permanent, and without licensing restrictions, and more technical ones, such as establishing ease of electronic access and the ability for machines to read and parse the data. In short, the data should be searchable, sortable, downloadable, and machine-readable.

In 2013, the Sunlight Foundation adapted these principles into six criteria to evaluate state legislative bodies called the Open Legislative Data Report Card. This report uses that scorecard to assess state government data transparency, drawing from the Sunlight Foundation’s grades – which are continually updated as states implement new systems – at the time of publication.

For a more detailed explanation of each factor, including citations, please download the full report.

Click to view scoring methodology
  1. Current Policy in State
    Points added to score
  2. State graded with an "A"
    0 points
  3. State graded with an "B"
    2.5 points
  4. State graded with an "C"
    5 points
  5. State graded with an "D"
    7.5 points
  6. State graded with an "F"
    10 points
Policy Recommendation for This Factor
Provide complete, accessible information to “empower the public’s use of government-held data.”

The Sunlight Foundation has identified “Ten Principles for Opening Up Government Information.” States should take these principles into account to ensure that members of the public are able to access information about how their government operates. These are as follows:

  • Completeness: Datasets should be as complete as possible, including as much raw data and metadata as are available
  • Primacy: Datasets should be primary sources and original information
  • Timeliness: Data should be released “as quickly as it is gathered and collected,” whenever possible
  • Ease of physical and electronic access: Barriers to physical and electronic access should be limited, including limiting procedural hoops to jump through
  • Machine readability: Information should be provided in formats that are widely used and lend themselves to processing
  • Nondiscrimination: Registration or membership requirements should not impose barriers to data accessibility
  • Use of commonly owned standards: Ensure that data are available in formats that everyone can access and access freely
  • Licensing: Provide data without restrictions on use
  • Permanence: “Information released by the government online should be sticky: It should be available online in archives in perpetuity.”
  • Usage costs: Governments should be aware that “imposing fees for access skews the pool of who is willing (or able) to access information”
  • Click here to see a full list of policy recommendations to improve the health of state democracies based on the findings of this report.

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Press Contact: Benton Strong at Bstrong@americanprogressaction.org 202-481-8142

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