Howard launches government transparency site

Want to know more about Howard County's housing commission contracts or inmate data? There's a site for that.

Howard County on Friday rolled out an initiative aimed at increasing government transparency, a new data portal on the government's website called OpenHoward. 

The site, at opendata.howardcountymd.gov, assembles 53 data sets, 17 maps and three charts across 15 categories, including money and finance, planning and zoning, county administration and public safety. 

The County Council passed a law last summer requiring county agencies to provide data to the public via a searchable web portal.

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman also advocated for increased transparency during his campaign for county executive. 

“We now have a centralized platform for collecting and sharing government data with the public,” Kittleman said in a statement. “I believe strongly in open and transparent government, and this is an important step to help increase responsiveness and improve efficiency." 

“I’m very excited to see our legislation come to fruition with the launch of OpenHoward," Councilwoman Jen Terrasa, a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. "Not only will it help our constituents access and use county data, but it allows them to conduct their own analysis, empowering them as they engage with county officials on issues that are important to our community.”

Some of the data sets, such as a list of zoning meetings or a rundown of service requests from Tell HoCo, the county's mobile app for citizens to report potholes and other nuisances, were already online elsewhere. This is the first time they have all been assembled in one place and in one format. 

County officials said the goal of OpenHoward is to make information about the county more accessible to residents. 

“By sharing data in an open and transparent manner, we empower our residents and employees to access information anywhere, anytime,” Chris Merdon, Howard County’s Director of Technology and Communication Services, said in a statement. 

The county intends to expand the information provided on the site, which is currently in its beta version. 

Kittleman said he also intends to use the data to hold government agencies accountable to their goals. That next step, dubbed "HoCoStat," will be implemented in the future, and could be used to track how long it takes to get a permit or how efficient bus routes run, county officials said. 

 

 

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