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The importance of data governance to municipal data portal success

Data governance municipalities

What are the challenges municipalities face when it comes to effective data governance. We look at the importance of data portals and robust data governance programs to enable municipalities to securely share reliable, compliant data internally and externally.

VP of Marketing , Opendatasoft
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Robust data governance is an essential component of data-centricity. Ensuring data shared through data portals is reliable, high quality, consistent, trustworthy, secure, compliant and used correctly is vital to successful data sharing. While data governance is crucial to all organizations, municipalities face specific, additional governance challenges when collecting and sharing data through data portals.

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Municipalities increasingly rely on data portals to foster innovation, transparency, and citizen engagement. Data governance plays an essential part in guaranteeing the quality of data assets shared internally and externally through these data portals. 

Understanding the challenges for municipal data governance

Municipalities must overcome particular challenges to effective data governance:

Growing volumes of data

Municipalities are creating and collecting data from a wide range of systems. Data doesn’t just come from traditional IT systems, but increasingly from smart city applications, particularly Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, environmental monitoring and connected/autonomous vehicles.

Diversity of services

Municipalities provide a wide range of services to their communities, from managing parks and leisure facilities, to permitting, education and emergency services. All of these departments produce data, often in very disparate formats and standards, from paper-based reports to spreadsheets and IoT data. This departmental approach also risks trapping data in silos, rather than being shared across the organization. Data governance and data portals need to cover all of these formats and datasets.


Municipal data includes a great deal of confidential, personal or sensitive data about citizens and their activities. Protecting this data and ensuring it remains secure is of paramount importance, both in terms of building trust with the community and meeting applicable laws. Additionally, any data collected must be used ethically and to benefit individuals rather than being shared with unauthorized employees and external bodies. This is particularly true of smart city data, such as from traffic and pedestrian cameras.

External sharing

Municipalities collaborate closely with a range of other public and private sector organizations, such as healthcare and mobility providers. Data sharing across these ecosystems increases efficiency, enables the development of new services, and provides deeper, richer information for data portals. However, working with external partners means agreeing common data governance processes to ensure data, which requires close collaboration.

Understanding the benefits of municipal data governance

While there are challenges around municipal data governance, robust programs deliver considerable benefits to the organization and wider community:

Increased efficiency

Data governance provides a full picture of data assets across the organization. Mapping data enables municipalities to identify and remove redundant or duplicate systems or data, and increase efficiency by sharing data through their portals.

Reduced risk

Understanding their complete data landscape allows municipalities to ensure compliance and reduce risk. They can identify potential issues with data, better understand potential risks, and put in place strategies to reduce them.

Improved decision-making

Data governance ensures information is trustworthy and reliable, allowing its use for more effective decision-making across the organization at all levels.

Greater value from data

Breaking down silos and ensuring data is used across the organization through centralized data portals transforms its value. Data governance is essential to guaranteeing data on portals is reliable and consistent, increasing its use and value.

Better meet citizen needs

Communities are increasingly demanding more from their municipalities, especially around transparency, performance, and new, citizen-centric services. Reliable data is at the heart of engaging with the community and demonstrating understanding of their requirements.

Innovating in new areas

Municipalities need to innovate to increase efficiency and the services that they provide. Data is essential to innovation, such as through smart city programs and AI, but it must be high quality and trusted.

All of this means effective data governance is vital for municipal reputations and operations. Data shared via their data portals has to meet robust governance standards in order to be trusted and reused.

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The importance of data portals to municipal data governance

Data portals provide municipalities and their communities with a centralized, easily accessible one-stop shop for the organization’s data. This assists data governance as it acts as a single source of truth for everyone – removing the risk of out-of-date or unreliable data being used by employees or citizens.

Modern data portals have a range of governance features built in. They include powerful access rights that ensure that sensitive or confidential data can only be viewed by relevant, authorized users, supporting municipal security and data usage policies. Quality checks and processes mean that unreliable data is not made available through the portal and that formats are standardized. As every data asset includes the details of its owner, any queries around quality can be swiftly followed up.

As data is made available on portals in a range of formats, from data tables to visualizations and dashboards, it is accessible to all. This builds a strong data culture internally and externally, with experts and non-experts all able to access data in ways that best meet their needs. This culture then reinforces data governance programs by demonstrating the value of well-governed data and encouraging greater data sharing.

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Alongside the data portal itself, municipalities can ensure robust data governance processes by following these five best practices:

1. Leverage existing policies

Many organizations (such as the Center for Digital Government and MetroLab Network) have created specific data governance policies and frameworks for municipalities, as have state level IT departments. Rather than reinventing the wheel, municipalities should start with these resources and then adapt them to their needs, as well as speaking to peers in other authorities to gain from their experiences.

2. Gain leadership backing

Many data governance programs fail as senior leadership doesn’t understand the benefits that they bring. Overcome this obstacle by demonstrating the importance of data governance to larger municipal objectives, such as smart city programs, AI, transparency and performance management. This will help gain leadership backing and ongoing budget sign-off.

3. Involve all data owners

It is important to break down departmental data silos, so work closely with data owners across the organization to bring them into the program. Take the time to educate them about the benefits of a standardized data governance approach, and explain their key roles as data stewards.

4. Build a data culture

Ensure compliance with your governance program by creating a data culture across the organization. Educate all users about the importance of data sharing – but also protect against any misuse. That means putting in place safeguards, especially through your data portal, to ensure that sensitive data is only accessible by relevant people.

5. Think beyond the organization

Municipalities are likely to be working with other private/public sector organizations around data. Therefore create and communicate strong data governance rules across ecosystems – this will increase quality and build greater trust with users and the public.

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The effective sharing and reuse of data via data portals is central to municipalities increasing efficiency, reducing risk, improving transparency, building smart cities and harnessing AI to meet the needs of their communities. Data governance is a vital part of data portal programs. Without understanding and implementing data governance, governments risk poor quality data being shared through portals, or non-adherence to security and confidentiality standards, leading to reputational and legal damage. Municipalities therefore need to embrace strong data governance frameworks, tailored to their specific requirements, to drive data portal success.


Articles on the same topic : Open government Governance Data portal Public institutions Open data

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