Governments around the world are making data more accessible and more useable. By doing so, they are helping to make government more open, transparent and accountable. With open data, community members, local organizations, businesses and journalists can leverage public information to support new businesses, inform public policy, make fact-based decisions, and encourage greater civic engagement.

In California, a number of state agencies are beginning to implement open data programs. Releasing data isn’t as simple as just flipping a switch, however. These organizations need to plan for privacy, data quality governance structures and a host of other factors. The California Health and Human Services Agency and the State Controller’s Office have completed large-scale open data projects that have considered these issues. This publication reports on their successes, challenges and outcomes. Using shared lessons from these projects and others, the paper also summarizes current state policy on open data, including procurement policies; highlights various privacy laws and guidelines; and provides sample organizational structures for open data teams.