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Title: Examining the Implementation of Open Government Data in United States at Municipality Levels
Advisor: Prof. Dan O'Brien

Abstract:

Following the line of e-government from the 1990s, open government data (OGD), which generally refers to a philosophy and increasingly, policy, that facilitate transparency, accountability and value creation by making government data available to, started in the 2000s and continues to grow. Since it is still a relatively new area. There is a need for more detailed empirical research on open government data portals at local governments in the U.S. Starting from literature review of theories and barriers, this research first examined 357 municipalities in the U.S. with evaluation form with 38 criterion using regression analysis, indicates population, participating Code for America Fellowship and Brigade, having more colleges in town, having a manager-council government system and using Socrata System as important influence on variance of sophistication among municipalities. Structural equation modeling (SEM) result implies civic technology ecosystem, rather than population and governments’ effort alone, plays key contributor to advanced functions and usage of open government data.

The second part of this research tries to answer whether the claimed benefits of OGD, range from efficiency, effectiveness, social and economic, actually reach their potential in local administrators’ eyes is a point of contention. Using 14 semi-structured interviews with mid-level local administrators in charge of OGD in their jurisdictions, this research found releasing data not only improves transparency, it also increases accountability of public administrators, expands internal data use and foster social trust. Also, though some economic benefits exist, they are either difficult to quantify or indirect at best. Social benefits are also difficult to attribute directly to OGD, but appear more evident. In terms of civic tech ecosystem, the role of civic data advocacy groups and of local governments’ willingness to involve those groups are important in forming healthy local data ecosystems. However, in supporting OGD, the institutional form of a local political system in itself is not the definitive factor. Instead, people matter, but such policy entrepreneurs can be in diverse roles within and outside government. Finally, based on interviews, the major obstacles to implementing OGD include internal resistance, a lack of resources, and difficulties in integrating old and new systems. Interviews also revealed a range of future OGD plans, ranging from adding additional features to facilitating the internal and external use of data on public policy decisions. Concerns raised by administrators are discussed.  Finally, this research indicates that as releasing government data becomes more prevalent in local governments, it will become the “new default. 2.0”. Digital inclusion and digital literacy will become more central to implementing OGD policies.

The third part of this research is to examine and assess how coastal states and cities in the United States make climate resilience-related data available to the public. It reviews the data made publicly available by the governments of all 20 coastal states and their major coastal cities, finding that states and cities in the Northeast tend to have the most organized, accessible data in this domain, especially at the state level. By contrast, states and cities on the West Coast have high-quality open data portals, but they tend to lack sections and data specific to resilience, climate change or adaptation. The South has the lowest amount of data and related information available. This comparative research, the first of its kind to our knowledge, can help inform further research and civic efforts surrounding the collaborative utilization of data for solving the challenges created by climate change.

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