Interested in building an open data portal for your local community or region? Working with other government agnecies from the start is the best way to ensure success!

Get Buy-In From Leadership

Like any project, building an open data portal requires a champion or some other sort of buy-in from the leadership of all involved entities.  Of course, this can be very complicated in a collaborative project where responsibilities cross organizational boundaries.  Clear roles and processes should be established for the planning and build-out process. 

In addition, it can be helpful to make different arguments to different agencies/entities. For one city-wide project, we prepared different "fact sheets" for each city department, demonstrating how the department could benefit from the process, as well as how releasing their data could benefit the community and other agencies.

Policy and Process Planning

Speaking of process, an open data platform does raise several issues that are important for planners to consider.  In addition to standard website publishing policy issues, such as privacy policies and licensing, these types of data projects might be subject to governing regulations.  Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") and sunshine/transparency laws, privacy laws and regulations, personally identifiable information - these are all the types of issues that should be discussed.  Getting sign-off and counsel from your city/county attorney's office is a great idea.

Stakeholder and Community Input

As part of the planning process, you'll need to consider your audience and their needs for the data portal.  Make sure you reach out to potential users outside of the government, such as local nonprofits or community groups, businesses and entrepreneurs, technologists and developers, as well as traditionally underserved populations in your community.  Feedback should be a continuous process; don't ignore your stakeholders after the initial planning phase.

Selecting a Platform: Build, Buy, or Borrow

Just like any other software implementation decision, your organization will need to choose whether you'll:

  • "build" your own custom software,
  • "buy" an off-the-shelf solution, or
  • "borrow" an open-source code base to customize.

There are many options for open data platforms these days, including self-hosted and cloud-hosted solutions, as well as proprietary and open source alternatives.

Selecting a Platform: Feature Evaluation




Long-Term Sustainability of Your Data Portal

Like any technology-based project, your data portal will need funding for updates, maintenance, publishing operations, etc.  

Community Engagement: Building a Data Commons