There are many great examples of governments taking the initiative to share their public data openly. It’s not a simple matter of just put it online – in order to be useful to people, the data must be (1) appropriate types of data; (2) available in usable formats; (3) owned and maintained by someone – as a reliable data source; and (4) used to create things that are useful and usable to people. This involves a set of polices, guidelines, procedures, roles and responsibilities, and best practices to create an effective open data initiative. Here are some examples of the current state of open data initiatives in a variety of governments – I’m sure there are many other great examples missing from my list, and I’d be delighted to learn about other examples – please share them!
Washington DC is currently THE model for Open Data. They started by aggregating data into a publicly available collection at: http://data.octo.dc.gov/
Key issues – data needs to have clear owner; maintenance schedule, policies, procedures; common accessible formats; added value is for community to have way to contribute back to the City with app development.
Evolved to Apps for Democracy competition: http://www.appsfordemocracy.org/
Involved a modest amount of prize money awarded to application developers creating new web-based applications that utilized the City’s open data.
A second Apps for Democracy competition (dubbed Community Edition) extended the competition to focus on City problems that could be solved with technology, and to develop 311 online applications to help solve those problems. The 2nd competition has taken the bar to a whole new level with the development of a DC 311 API: http://octolabs.pbworks.com/Open-311-API
DC 311 API – allows developers to create application interfaces to interact with the DC 311 call centre. For example, the Facebook and iPhone applications (http://311.socialdc.org) were developed using the DC 311 API.
The initiative of Washington has sparked many other Governments to look at sharing their public data:
US Federal Government
The former CIO of Washington (Vivek Kundra) moved on to work with as the US Federal Government CIO, and quickly established the Open Data initiative http://www.data.gov/ to make public data generated by Fed Gov’t branches available at a central location. One application developed to date is http://www.recdata.gov/ for Federal Parks & Recreation data – it allows you to search by state/activity/etc. One issue/problem with this dataset is that it’s only Federal Level data, so searching for “New York State” and “camping” returns Federal Parks only, omitting any State park information… next step would be to include state & municipal level data into the mix.
A pretty amazing collection of datasets is available at http://datasf.org/ including a pretty impressive collection of apps (both web-based and mobile) at: http://datasf.org/showcase/ for example http://www.ecofinderapp.com/ for the iPhone to help people find locations to recycle or dispose of “just about anything”.
Recently announced an open data initiative, and already has a Beta website up with some data available in various formats: http://data.vancouver.ca/
Already has a pretty rich collection of datasets available on the web: http://www.nanaimo.ca/datafeeds/
At the MESH Conference in Toronto, April 2009, Toronto Mayor Miller announced the City’s intentions for an open data plan. Details and timeline (initial datasets released Fall of 09) is available at: http://www.toronto.ca/open/
Gale Brewer, chair of the Committee on Technology in Government of the New York City Council, has introduced a draft law that would adopt open data sharing standards for the city’s government. (Source: EveryBlock.com Blog)
New York City is organizing an Open 311 Dev Camp to bring together community members to discuss development of a NYC 311 API (or possibly a more universal 311 API): http://open311.org/2009/09/announcing-open311-devcamp/
Announced plans for an open data initiative in July 2009: http://djkelly.ca/2009/07/open-government-coming-to-calgary/
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources
Perhaps a great example of how NOT to do an open data initiative, the MNR has a page of “Data available to the general public”, with such useful datasets (sarcastic tone inferred) as Beaver Dam locations between 1976-1996. Ok, their dataset selection is certainly useful to a select crowd, but to get the data you have to email someone – not good. http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/LIO/2ColumnSubPage/STEL02_168198.html
Excellent City Council resolution in support of Open Data & Open Source.