Open Missouri Project to Simplify Searching for Missouri Government Data
By Nathan Hurst
MU News Bureau
Columbia, Mo. (March 18, 2011) — Despite a dramatic increase of available information due to the prevalence of the Internet, many important government records and data are still not readily accessible for citizens and journalists to view online. In an effort to improve the transparency in state and local government and encourage the use of data by citizens, journalists and businesses, David Herzog, a 2010-11 Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) Fellow and an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism, has created Open Missouri, a website that helps make Missouri government data more accessible for those who wish to access it.
Open Missouri has located more than 135 of Missouri state government databases that do not exist anywhere on the Internet. In its next phase the site will make it easy for users to make requests for the information included in these databases. Herzog says one of the most important aspects to the Open Missouri project is that it simply raises awareness that the information exists.
“We want to not only inform Missourians about all the data that exists, but also inspire journalists and citizens to seek out and use this information for the benefit of everyone. This is definitely a model that can be adopted by other states as well.”
“It is really difficult for journalists and citizens to figure out exactly what data government agencies collect,” Herzog said. “We are hoping to raise awareness about this wealth of data and make it easy for people to access it.”
Not only does Open Missouri list and describe dozens of offline databases, it will provide a quick and easy way to submit Sunshine requests to the government agency that holds the information. Herzog says Sunshine requests can be time consuming and potentially expensive even if a journalist knows what and where to look. Open Missouri will not only show users where to look, but will create an automatic e-mail Sunshine request addressed to the appropriate agency. Herzog hopes this website will be a model for other states to open their records as well.
“Open Missouri is meant to provide a platform for people who are interested in sharing data,” Herzog said. “We want to not only inform Missourians about all the data that exists, but also inspire journalists and citizens to seek out and use this information for the benefit of everyone. This is definitely a model that can be adopted by other states as well.”
The Open Missouri website is free and open for anyone to register. It was officially launched on March 17, during Open Missouri Day, hosted by the Reynolds Journalism Institute. This launch comes during Sunshine Week, which is a national initiative of the American Society of News Editors to improve government openness.
The Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) engages media professionals, scholars and citizens in programs aimed at improving the practice and understanding of journalism. Part of the Missouri School of Journalism, RJI collaborates with news and technology companies, professional associations, foundations and individuals to generate and test innovative models and technologies for journalism and advertising. Six Donald W. Reynolds Fellows spend an academic year at RJI, working with Missouri faculty and students and RJI staff to develop new ways to gather, process, and deliver news, information and advertising. RJI was launched in 2004 with an initial $31-million grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation.
Updated: May 21, 2020