By Allison Hiltz
Massachusetts launched its new open data/open records platform, CTHRU, this week, allowing the public to access and analyze the state’s financial data, such as spending and payroll.
The website, which is administered by the state’s independent comptroller’s office, is “designed to provide an intuitive experience for exploring where our taxpayer dollars are utilized and is available 24/7.”
Powered by the Seattle-based cloud software company Socrata, CTHRU allows users to look at spending data from a broad, statewide or agency-level view or an up-close-and-personal view, depending on their preferences.
The launch comes on the heels of the state’s enactment of a new public records law, which passed unanimously in both the House and Senate earlier this year. The law requires, among other provisions, that agencies and municipalities have at least one dedicated records access officer to oversee public information requests and share information online beginning Jan. 1, 2017.
CTHRU is the vehicle by which this data will be presented to the public. By putting the information into the hands of its constituents, the comptroller’s office is opening itself up to the critical eyes of those who will be on the lookout for waste, fraud and abuse, which state Comptroller Thomas G. Shack III embraces. He also hopes it will inspire college students to analyze the data and identify ways to improve how the state approaches things.
CTHRU will likely eventually replace the state’s previous financial transparency effort, Massachusetts Open Checkbook, which is still available online. Although not all data from Open Checkbook has been migrated to the new system, Shack noted in an interview that, “The data set available on Open Checkbook is like comparing the Wright brothers’ plane to the space shuttle, when compared to the data depth we have with CTHRU.” In other words, it’s more powerful and sophisticated.
Massachusetts is not the only state that has opened itself up to public scrutiny by sharing its spending data online. With the demand for increased transparency in government growing in recent years, at least 36 states have passed legislation that requires a centralized, searchable website that is available to the public.
For the full list, see NCSL’s Statewide Transparency and Spending Website and Legislation interactive chart.
Allison Hiltz is a research analyst in NCSL's State Services Division.