We’re pleased to announce the 2016 recipient of our Open Data Pioneer award: Connecticut Chief Data Officer Tyler Kleykamp.
In the fall of 2014, I stood in an auditorium at Yale University, addressing the Connecticut Data Collaborative’s conference about the state of open data in Connecticut. Reading from prepared remarks, I said that I would award the state a C grade for its data repository. I hadn’t regarded this as an inflammatory claim, but the crowd actually gasped in response.
In retrospect, this probably had something to do with the fact that Tyler Kleykamp was in the audience, and that people are unaccustomed to such candor. Kleykamp had been on the job for a scant 8 months. Etiquette had been breached. A tiny gauntlet, perhaps, had been thrown.
Tyler took it in good spirits. He conceded that the grade was probably accurate, and that the provided evidence was correct. But there’s no way that he liked it.
One of the people I’ve talked to about Tyler is Andrew Ba Tran, a data journalist with The Connecticut Mirror and Trend CT. Andrew’s work requires working with a lot of data produced by Connecticut, and that means working with Tyler. Such a relationship could reasonably be adversarial, but theirs is far from it. Andrew gave Tyler the title of “the oracle of open data in Connecticut,” summarizing his work as “coaxing data out of various departments’ clutches.” He described Tyler as a connector—knowing how to get data, even if the state doesn’t have it—and as doing a great job of explaining the benefits of open data. Tyler doesn’t just pass along lousy data: when possible, he’ll improve it, knowing how that can make it more useful to others.
Scott Gaul, of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, also sang Tyler’s praises in a recent conversation. Scott puts on quarterly gatherings of state data folks (in fact, Tyler gave a presentation at the most recent one). He cited Tyler’s work fostering collaboration as one of his great merits—instead of protecting his turf, or trying to take over others’, he connects people to each other, providing them with the tools that they need to succeed. Scott sees Tyler as realistic about how much the state can reasonably accomplish with a data repository, while simultaneously seeking ways to succeed outside of those limits. Tyler’s ability to navigate bureaucracy and politics is matched by his technical skills—the perfect combination of skills.
I also checked in with Michelle Riordan-Nold, director of the Connecticut Data Collaborative (which we profiled in 2014). Michelle emphasized that Tyler is fighting an uphill battle in Connecticut, with some agencies reluctant to adopt standard data practices, making his successes harder-won than might be publicly obvious. He’s been happy to collaborate with her organization, going so far as jointly submitting a project proposal to the Knight News Challenge. This kind of collaboration is fantastically rare in state governments.
One can’t just go around grading states arbitrarily. My giving Connecticut’s repository a C was one of the moments that led to the creation of the U.S. States Open Data Census, a comprehensive survey and grading of every state in the nation. When U.S. Open Data started surveying the holdings of states, Tyler tagged the datasets in question for Connecticut, to make them easy to inventory. Connecticut emerged with a score of 78% (a C, I hasten to brag), which was the top score of the couple of dozen states inventoried at that point. Tyler immediately set about working to raise his state’s score. He made sure that all inventoried data was published under an open license, complete, verifiable, up-to-date, etc. One major obstacle to a higher score: Connecticut doesn’t aggregate localities’ restaurant inspections, netting them a score of zero on an entire inventoried dataset. No problem for Tyler—he created a whole new site to aggregate localities’ inspection records.
Now that every state has been graded, Connecticut has come out on top, with a score of 84%. Tyler is, naturally, still looking for ways to increase his state’s grade by improving Connecticut’s offerings.
The role of the state CDO is still being defined. The limits of a state data repository are being plumbed. The interplay of powers between agency CDOs and the government’s leading CDO is up in the air. Tyler Kleykamp is doing a great deal to help to resolve each these, in the course of working to maintain Connecticut’s position as a leading state in the practice of open data. He’s doing so collaboratively, openly, and innovatively. It is for these reasons and more that we’re pleased to name Tyler Kleykamp our 2016 Open Data Pioneer.