The County of San Mateo is proud to announce that John Ridener, the Open Data Community Liaison working for the Information Services Department (ISD), has been named by State Scoop as one of the 20 Open Gov Leaders You Need to Know.

The opening of the article describes the purpose of assembling the list:

So much of what's happening in the world of open data and open government goes unadvertised. Every day, legions of public servants, entrepreneurs and volunteers work with data and think of new ways to nudge the ideals of democracy, government transparency and accountability onward. Cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles all do highly-publicized cutting-edge work in this space — but there's additional effort in the field that sometimes falls under the radar. From David Greisen's mission to maintain a constant living record of the nation's entire body of legal policy to Trudy Raymundo's projects to promote conversation and collaboration around complex issues in San Bernardino County, California, the 20 leaders highlighted below chronicle just a small portion of the work being done in the open government and open data space today — and what they hope to see next. These are the unsung heroes of the open government movement — advocates of transparency and efficiency who are leading efforts to use data and technology to make a difference.
 

You can view the entire article here: http://statescoop.com/monthly/open-gov-leaders-you-need-to-know

The interview with John Ridener is republished below:

What's your big project in open data/open government right now?
 
The open data program in San Mateo County is in its fourth year and continues to mature, moving from a sprint to add datasets to our open data portal to ensuring we're sharing the most useful data possible. This year's largest effort is to work with departments to help increase the use and reuse of the data they already work with on a daily basis. Positioning data as a strategic asset within the county will help departments utilize their data more effectively and create context for releasing open data publicly.
 
We're working on increasing data sharing internally, smoothing barriers that slow down data velocity, and focusing on how the internal use of data can help to solve service issues through performance reporting and program analytics. Determining what data to share openly will become a simple yes/no decision when departments are fully aware of what data is mission critical. The county is continuing to innovate on a variety of levels to make this data work possible including moving to cloud-based systems and pursuing business analytics solutions.
 
How is this work changing how government does business?
 
San Mateo County is the home to many tech companies like Facebook, Genentech, Oracle, and YouTube. The people who live and work in Silicon Valley expect to be able to interact with and do their business with the government as conveniently as ordering food from their phones. County government has been challenged to meet these needs, especially when it comes to data, a raw material for user experience. The open data program is working to change how county departments conceive of and use data to connect with users' high expectations with regard to service availability.
 
The increased use of data within departments and sharing that data with the public helps to create responsive services that report progress through improved customer satisfaction and increased data sharing. It also makes it possible for the county to develop new insights into service delivery and identify areas of need. An example of this kind of tool is the Community Vulnerability Index (CVI) which shows areas of need in seven areas as well as an overall value for areas in San Mateo County. The CVI is used internally for targeting services and developing responsive programs.
 
What's one change you would like to see in the government and/or open data space?
 
As open data as an area of practice continues to mature, it would serve its practitioners and users to integrate with services people already use. Governments provide unique data that has no other source, but the expectations governments have for people to find and use that data in a meaningful way are far too high. Currently, to find an answer to a question using open government data, someone needs to: 
 
  1. Ask a question of the government they might answer with data
  2. Understand enough civics enough to go to the correct government data source, if available
  3. Find and identify useful data from the government source, like an open data portal
  4. Obtain or use the data via download or application programming interface (API)
  5. Analyze the data in a meaningful way
  6. Answer the question with the data a user could find
With each step in this process, users become frustrated and stop trying to answer their questions. Journalists and dashboards are useful shortcuts to take open data and create information from it, but open data publishers can do more to help. Through data curation around service or groups of services, data-driven storytelling, and embedding open data directly into platforms like Google, Facebook or Yelp, governments can ensure the data they publish is useful and used. To get open data to the point it can be consumed by services like this can be difficult, but worthwhile as goal for open data programs working to increase data visibility and use.