MU Professor Makes Missouri Information More Accessible
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, 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.
“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 email Sunshine request addressed to the appropriate agency. Herzog hopes this website will be a model for other states to open their records as well.