New York has launched open.ny.gov, a new state data transparency website that provides one-stop access to data from New York State agencies, localities, and the federal government. The website, featuring economic development, health, recreation, and public services information, was unveiled today during Sunshine Week, a nationwide initiative designed to raise awareness about the importance of open government. Connecticut has also launched a new web portal for the state’s Department of Social Services (DSS) that gives the agency’s 750,000 clients the ability to check on the status of their benefits online and provides members of the general public with a pre-screening tool to learn about which services they may be eligible for.
Open.ny.gov is offered as a shared resource to localities across the state, which will give citizens unified access to government data and help local governments cut costs and improve efficiency in addition to increasing transparency. The Counties of Essex, Oneida, Onondaga, and Suffolk as well as the City of Albany have already begun sharing their data on the website. The State will provide assistance to all localities that choose to use the service. Open.ny.gov can help state agencies and local governments by fostering research, promoting informed decision-making, and enhancing collaboration based on public data. It also provides agencies and localities with increased technical capacity to make their data public.
Current information on the website includes data sets, links to existing portals and agencies, charts and some government documents. Through a partnership with the federal government, thousands of federal data sets are also available at open.ny.gov alone or in combination with New York’s data. Similarly, New York’s data is searchable along with data from other states on the federal website data.gov.
The state calls the release “unprecedented,” and indeed, the information presented exceeds other municipalities and states offering open data in name only. Specifically, the presence of high value information such as budget data is a welcome addition over more common data releases like transportation and broadband availabilities. The state also has plans for its “checkbook” site to be online by the end of this year which will presumably provide more financial and high value data.
For the first time, data from the NYS Statewide Planning and Research Cooperative System (SPARCS), a comprehensive health reporting database, is publicly available without a FOIL request and in searchable, downloadable format. This includes 2010 hospital discharge data by facility and patient demographics for hospitals in the state. Also available are historic information on hospital-acquired inspection rates and hospital cost reports that will facilitate research and analysis.
“New York State should be commended for its leadership in making government data more accessible, discoverable, and usable,” said Todd Park, U.S. Chief Technology Officer, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, who has been leading federal open government efforts. “Opening up government data will promote greater government efficiency and effectiveness, and will fuel a rising tide of private-sector entrepreneurship, innovation and discovery.”
Connecticut’s new web portal, www.connect.ct.gov, marks the first step of the department’s wide-ranging “ConneCT” modernization initiative, designed to bring 21st Century technology to an agency working to keep up with record demand for food and medical assistance.
With the new online service, Connecticut joins many other states in offering clients the ability to set up online accounts to check the status of benefits, much like banks, stores and credit card companies provide. Dubbed “MyAccount,” the feature allows DSS clients the ability to track a variety of information, including SNAP (food stamps), HUSKY/Medicaid and other benefit information. Data is stored securely and can be accessed by computer or smartphone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Over the next year, DSS is preparing to launch additional “ConneCT” features, including a statewide, toll-free interactive voice-response phone system for clients; streamlined document imaging and management; modernized service centers; and online application processing. The agency is also working with the Connecticut Health Insurance Exchange on medical assistance coordination under the Affordable Care Act. In the long-run, a new eligibility management system is on the drawing board to replace DSS’s outmoded 1980s-vintage system, with the expected infusion of 90% federal funding.
As CivSource recently reported, MAXIMUS, a government technology and support provider will be working with the state on customer service and patient navigation in concert with the the Connecticut Health Insurance Exchange in order to meet state requirements for federal health care reform.
“This series of technological improvements will gradually change the service landscape at DSS for the benefit of Connecticut residents, the agency’s dedicated staff, and taxpayers in general,” Governor Malloy said. “We are literally taking an agency from obsolescence in terms of overwhelmed phones and laborious paper processing into the modern age of business systems. The online services are just the start.”