Open FI$Cal, California’s financial transparency website, has come a long way since going public in September 2018. The site now displays expenditure information for all 150 departments transacting in the FI$Cal system, updated every month, and it continues to evolve.
Since its public launch, the site has added nearly 60 million rows of data from business units representing all of the departments that use FI$Cal for their accounting. Well over $300 million in expenditures have been listed on the site so far, equaling over 20 gigabytes of data. The volume of data on the site continues to grow quickly.
That’s a lot of information, and to help the public understand it we have added an Open FI$Cal Learning Center that teaches users about the state’s financial data and how to interact with it on the site. Users already were able to explore data graphically and download it. We have also created a beta API (application program interface) that allows power users to build applications on top of the data. This permits outside websites and other applications to automatically download data as soon as it enters Open FI$Cal each month.
We are exploring additional steps to improve the site, which may include:
- Adding datasets on expenditures specific to dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Adding more data descriptions and data stories to the site.
- Working with our partners in the California Government Operations Agency to mirror Open FI$Cal data on the data.ca.gov website.
- Displaying more vendor information while still ensuring that confidential information remains protected.
- Reducing the lag time for posting data on the site, which currently is 60 days or longer.
- Adding other data from the FI$Cal system to the site.
Open FI$Cal is part of a larger shift toward transparency and open data throughout government – a new normal in how government relates to the public. Before the launch of the site, California was ranked 48th among the 50 states for financial transparency in 2018 and dead last in 2016 by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. We are expecting a move up in the ratings this year as a result of Open FI$Cal’s creation and evolution.
Open FI$Cal enhances the ability of citizens to understand how the government of California – the world’s fifth-largest economy – spends taxpayer dollars and conducts its business. It also gives the Legislature a new window into state spending, which allows lawmakers to make better-informed decisions.
We have made significant progress since the beginning of this journey less than two years ago. Open FI$Cal represents our department’s contribution to the administration’s goal of making state government data open and machine readable, and we look forward to continuing our progress toward this goal.