Many cities in the U.S. have started to build the necessary infrastructure for an open data network, increasing the transparency of localized information and establishing a sense of trust within communities large and small across the nation.

As our world becomes increasingly technologized, all the information that concerns our day-to-day lives is typically compiled in some kind of database so that the appropriate person can later access it. In many cases, though, this data would be put to better use if it were public and available for use by anyone who needs it.

Connecting local governments and municipalities by centralizing open data is a way to ensure that cities and states have access to the resources they deserve, reducing the delays and mistakes that result from excessive red tape, according to Code for America.

But as more cities throughout the U.S. start to host open data, one has to wonder: are all these small infrastructures the key to creating a database? Or is this a job for a federally driven and nationally connected data system?

Case Study: Gainesville, FL

The City of Gainesville wasn’t looking to make headlines when they created the Government 2.0 open data initiative — they simply wanted to improve access and knowledge about community affairs, as reports.

Now, through the City of Gainsville’s Open Data Portal, citizens can browse maps, graphs, and charts on health and safety, infrastructure and transportation, economic development, and much more. There are even ways to view job applicant demographics and find out if your small business would benefit from its location in a “HUBZone,” as the Small Business Administration explains.

Using open data has already proven to be a huge step towards efficiency and effectiveness for the Gainesville city government, local businesses, and citizens alike. So if one small city in Florida can do this much with open data, imagine what’s possible with a much bigger, federally streamlined system, one that could be implemented with relative ease.

Benefits of an Open System

According to the Open Knowledge Blog, “releasing data on service delivery can help reduce corruption and improve public services.” As an open data study in Uganda revealed, the public availability of knowledge reduced government corruption while improving the quality of the national school system.

And in Brazil, dirty politicians began to clean up their acts when the federal government began releasing public audit reports.

Similarly, supplying the public with information on health policies and providers will encourage those at the top of the system to improve the quality of their services.

When it comes to business, trends in consumer purchases will drive market data forward and allow for innovation to best suit customer needs. And these specific benefits are only the beginnings of the greater good that an open data system can provide.

Bigger Is Better

If individual cities aim to make all of their data sets open, they’ll have their work cut out for them: providing any resident or corporation access to data on things like types of 911 calls, frequency of hospital visits, and number of homes with electricity is a lot to ask of a local government.

And it does just seem inefficient for every city to set up their own open data system, thus the need for a more streamlined process run by the federal government, which would take the burden off of the cities while still providing them with much-needed information.

Not only would such a system ease the load on the cities and states, but it would also enable the smaller governments to utilize both federal data and that of other states and municipalities. Using a federal data platform would allow the entire country to leverage and utilize all the information government bodies collect each day, truly bringing us into the interconnected 21st century.