In a packed room, a panel of experts explained recent major changes to Maryland’s Public Information Act (PIA), the difference between public information and open data, and how to use the information provided. This was at MACo’s 2015 Summer Conference during the Attorney’s affiliate session, From Stone Tablets to eTablets, on August 14.
The experts were: (1) Rebecca Snyder, the Executive Director of the Maryland/Delaware and DC Press Association; (2) Hilary Ruley, the Chief Solicitor of the General Counsel Division on Baltimore City; (3) Barney Krucoff, the State Geographic Information Officer at the Maryland Department of Information Technology; and (4) Victoria Lewis, dataMontgomery Project Manager in Montgomery County. This session was moderated by the Honorable Bonnie Cullison from the Maryland House of Delegates.
All the panelists stressed that the PIA and open data changes were designed to help the public get and use information. Lewis explained that “open data is public information that is digital and user friendly.” With the new availability of all this information, Ruley noted that a culture change also needs to happen. This change includes learning to trust people – both that a requestor will use the information appropriately and that a record custodian will share all relevant information with a requestor and if it is not being shared, it is because there are valid reasons.
This was a fascinating session that answered a lot of questions and sparked interest for the future of public information.