CHHS’s Open Data Portal puts tools for transparency, accountability, and innovation directly into the hands of Californians and others through a centralized, user-friendly interface. The Open Data Portal provides the user with a single point of entry to access CHHS departments’ publishable data. This increased visibility provides derivative value as the public is able to analyze and utilize publicly available (publishable) government data to better understand what is happening in government on all levels – federal, state, and local. The portal and CHHS departments’ data resources are being implemented using a phased approach starting with the Department of Public Health.
The concept of “Open Data” describes data that are freely available, machine-readable, and formatted according to national technical standards to facilitate visibility and re-use of published data. The CHHS’ Open Data Portal was developed to catalog data and enable data to be readily discoverable. The portal offers access to standardized data that can be easily retrieved, downloaded, sorted, searched, analyzed, redistributed and re-used by individuals, business, researchers, journalists, developers, and government to process, trend, and innovate utilizing a single data table or combinations of data tables.
New technologies have dramatically changed both the way government conducts business and the public’s expectations about access to government information. As part of this transformation, the California Health and Human Services Agency (CHHS) launched its Open Data Portal initiative in order to increase public access to one of the State’s most valuable assets – non-confidential health and human services data. Its goals are to spark innovation, promote research and economic opportunities, engage public participation in government, increase transparency, and inform decision-making.
Data discovery is an iterative and on-going process. The following outlines the approach and timeline for the implementation of the CHHS Open Data Portal. By using a phased approach, CHHS will ensure that CHHS departments and offices have the opportunity to evaluate and refine processes. The implementation strategy has three phases spanning two years. Please see Figure 1 for an overview.
Figure 1. CHHS Open Data Portal implementation strategy in 3 phases.
Phase 1 of implementation included preparatory activities for the first participating CHHS department (Public Health), leading to the initial public launch of the CHHS Open Data Portal on August 8th, 2014.
Within the first participating CHHS Department, a series of internal announcements and educational activities ensured program awareness of open data and this demonstration project, and provided information about data publishing and governance activities. Using a previously compiled data resource inventory as a guide to program data resources, solicitation for participation in the project occurred during this phase. In addition, a consultant was brought in to assist with the development of a tactical framework/plan for data publishing and management to serve as a basis for ongoing and expanded data publishing activities and will supplement thematerials in this handbook. Key components of the tactical framework will include the detailed development of data and metadata standards as well as knowledge transfer to department staff.
Phase 1.1 Tools:
The first participating CHHS department initiated its formal data publication process and created a governance structure (please see the section on Governance in this handbook for detailed explanations and tools). Standards for data and metadata elements were developed by a working group of subject matter experts. Activities such as data table prioritization, data standardization, and metadata preparation occurred during this time period. In addition, all necessary review and approvals were obtained (from subject matter experts, legal services, public affairs, directorate and CHHS). By the end of this stage, initial data tables were uploaded into the open data platform.
Phase 1.2 Tools:
By the end of July, the preparatory work stages had been completed for 6 data tables and they were ready for a non-public, soft launch of the open data portal. For the soft launch, selected stakeholders were invited to review and beta test the website. Some design revisions and changes were suggested and completed within two weeks.
Phase 1.3 Tools:
Prior to the public launch of the CHHS Open Data Portal, CHHS Agency was formally notified, and approved the launch. Additional preparations and plans for public engagement are ongoing.
Phase 1.4 Tools:
Phase 2 of the CHHS Open Data Portal project focuses on learning from the work performed in Phase 1 to refine and streamline the data preparation and approval processes within the governance model. With increased experience, CHHS Agency anticipates that a second department will be ready to publish data using the CHHS Open Data Portal during this phase
A thorough evaluation of work flow processes was conducted based on early experience in Phase 1. The following items were reviewed and updated as needed: CHHS Open Data Handbook, CHHS Open Data Governance Model, and the CHHS Tools and Resources.
Once the first participating CHHS department gained experience and insights about the open data process, the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) was selected as a second CHHS department to share data on the portal. OSHPD data was added in the Fall of 2014. The selection of the second department was done at the CHHS level with input from the CHHS Data Strategy Planning Workgroup, a body composed of data experts from a selection of CHHS departments/offices. The open data platform vendor assisted in developing appropriate branding to reflect the two participating CHHS departments under a unified portal for access to data. Careful attention will be paid to lessons learned in the process of adding a second department that can be shared in the future.
Phase three will focus on adding other CHHS departments to the portal and addressing how the CHHS Open Data Portal will be sustained in the future.
CHHS and its departments and offices will evaluate the success of the CHHS Open Data Portal and consider the path forward. Issues to be addressed in this process include: open data platform licensing/procurement, any contracting required for professional services, continuing governance and ongoing maintenance resources needed.
Based on the decisions made for the path forward, other CHHS departments and offices will participate in data sharing through the CHHS Open Data Portal.
By Winter 2015, all CHHS departments were participating in open data governance and publishing open data to the portal.