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State, Burlington Seek To Open Government Data

Vermont state agencies and the city of Burlington announced open data initiatives this week that will make government information available online to the public. Both the Burlington initiative and the state-level effort are smaller versions of what officials say will be a larger trend towards more open, available government data.’s Hilary Niles reported on the state effort.

At an Open Data Consortium in Montpelier Tuesday afternoon, coordinated by the Vermont Center for Geographic Information, [Harry Bell of Vermont’s Department of Information and Innovation] described his job as using the Internet to facilitate communication between the state and the rest of the world. To date, that communication has consisted of a hodgepodge system of websites, most cut off from each other by separate back-ends and proprietary formats.

The state’s open-data project consists of a trial of just 10 data sets, but officials already say they want to expand on that in the future.


Bell said the pilot project is intended to be just a proof of the concept to “get things rolling.” If successful, the goal simply will be to continue moving forward. Success will be measured, in part, by how well the state’s geographic information systems and financial data can interface with the open data platform. The company Socrata holds the one-year contract, worth about $12,000, Bell said.

There are concerns at the state level about the implications open data could have on personal privacy if things like property records – already technically public, but difficult to browse ­– are made more accessible.

At the city level, Burlington announced a similar project, also being implemented by Socrata, to make information more open to citizens.

The Burlington Free Press' April Burbank reports:

[Burlington Mayor Miro] Weinberger said that the new portal will help the city to focus on the data it generates and eventually reduce the amount of staff time spent responding to public information requests. He wrote in his proposal that making financial reports available would also “help restore public confidence in City Hall as we work to stabilize the city’s finances.” Weinberger said the first data sets on the new platform would probably be the budget, crime statistics and public works information. Although the city had released that information in the past, Weinberger said the new software would make the process easier.

Burlington’s project is expected to be online within a few months. The state contract with Socrata is for one year, so that data is expected before next fall.

Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.
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