City Forward and Open Data Standards


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From the White House to your local municipality, government agencies, NGOs, and corporations are making more data and applications available to citizens. Government agencies are promoting not only data, but application programming interfaces (APIs) and interactive widgets to help developers get access to timely data. Now anyone can look for patterns in data and identify trends that offer insight into issues facing people today.

The open data movement is global. In July of 2011, the Open Government Partnership was launched to increase civic participation, fight corruption, and use technology to be more effective and accountable. President Barack Obama said, “I want us to ask ourselves everyday, how are we using technology to make a real difference in people’s lives.”

In the meantime, open data standards are evolving and maturing. Sites like dbpedia, freebase,, Dublinked and others are cataloging data in Resource Description Framework (RDF) to make data accessible anywhere anytime. New standards such as Open Data Protocol (OData) are maturing and being adopted by more open data practitioners.

Corporations are doing their part as well. IBM Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs is sponsoring City Forward, a free, web-based platform that enables users–city officials, academics and interested citizens–to view and interact with data while engaging in an ongoing public dialogue.

To learn more about the open data movement and how City Forward is addressing data, the value proposition, and legal challenges associated with enabling open data, view the City Forward Open Data Standards presentation.

Presentation authors: Gina Cardosi, IBM Certified Senior Project Manager, and Dave Rook, IBM IT Architect.

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City Forward and Open Data Standards

  1. 1. City Forward and open data standards Gina Cardosi and Dave Rook 3-Aug-2012
  2. 2. 2© 2012 IBM Corporation 2© 2010 IBM Corporation© 2012 IBM Corporation More than ever before, human life revolves around the city. In 1900, 13% of the world’s population lived in cities. In 2007, that number surpassed 50% —and it continues to grow.* By 2050, 70% of all people on earth will be city dwellers. * We are adding the equivalent of seven New Yorks to the planet every year. 2
  3. 3. 3© 2012 IBM Corporation Our Cities Generate Vital Signs  Today, almost anything—any object, process or system—can be instrumented, interconnected and infused with intelligence.  Data is lying in archives, published on government websites, being sensed from instrumentation in the environment, deduced from aerial imagery, and built from the ground-up by citizens electronically communicating about city life.  This reality holds enormous promise for people everywhere. Nowhere is the potential for progress more evident than in the world’s cities.
  4. 4. 4© 2012 IBM Corporation Map provided by Open Data is global 4 “I want us to ask ourselves everyday, how are we using technology to make a real difference in people’s lives.” - President Barack Obama
  5. 5. 5© 2012 IBM Corporation 5© 2010 IBM Corporation Our mission: To bring together information about cities and communities in ways that lead to new insights and support decision-making.
  6. 6. 6© 2012 IBM Corporation 6© 2010 IBM Corporation What is Corporate Citizenship? © 2012 IBM Corporation 6 IBM has developed a thoughtful, comprehensive approach to corporate citizenship that aligns with IBM’s values and maximizes the impact we can make as a global enterprise. We focus on specific societal issues, including the environment, community economic development, education, health, literacy, language and culture.
  7. 7. 7© 2012 IBM Corporation© 2012 IBM Corporation
  8. 8. 8© 2012 IBM Corporation© 2012 IBM Corporation 8
  9. 9. 9© 2012 IBM Corporation Adding data to City Forward  Once sources are identified there are still legal and technical steps involved in adding data to City Forward. Load into Database Identify Data Source Map to Data Structure Review Legality Assess the Value Data challenges • Some cities don’t have data that’s publically available and free • Each new source introduces additional transformation rules Value challenges • Data isn’t at a city level • Data doesn’t span years to allow for patterns over time Legal challenges • Data is publicly available but with restrictions, must seek permission
  10. 10. 10© 2012 IBM Corporation Data Issues  Standard classifications Integrating data from different countries introduces incompatibilities in classifications of data. For example, defining poverty and education level varies by country. In addition, defining the geography or time frame requires an administrative organization to define the city or metro area boundaries and when the reporting period starts and ends (e.g., school year).  Aggregation Non-additive data such as indicators cannot be aggregated over geography, time, or other classification. For example, unemployment rates, poverty rates, gross domestic product per capita are indicators that must be recomputed by geographic level and time frame. Having the unemployment rate at the county level cannot be summed to compute the unemployment rate for the metro area.  Availability Gathering data and making it available costs money. Most countries do not have data like the US Census American Community Survey (ACS) that provides annual estimates on many topics. The House of Representatives voted to eliminate funding for the ACS and the Senate has yet to vote on the issue.
  11. 11. 11© 2012 IBM Corporation Open Data Movement timeline Source:
  12. 12. 12© 2012 IBM Corporation Impact on everyday life  How safe is my neighborhood?  Which career is right for me?  What type of education do I need? Sources:,, 12
  13. 13. 13© 2012 IBM Corporation The United States advocates agencies make data available via APIs and widgets and provides an open source version of Source:
  14. 14. 14© 2012 IBM Corporation Options for data analysis and integration are increasing  Government agencies are promoting not only data, but application programming interfaces (APIs) and interactive widgets to help developers get access to timely data  Sites like DBpedia, Freebase, and Tetherless World Constellation (TWI) are cataloging data in Resource Description Language (RDF) to make data accessible anywhere anytime. Linked data is prominent at, dublinked, and other open data sites.  Non profit organizations are proving community level data to enhance citizen engagement.
  15. 15. 15© 2012 IBM Corporation Linked Data  DBPedia  Freebase   Dublinked  Sourc: Linking Open Data cloud diagram, by Richard Cyganiak and Anja Jentzsch.
  16. 16. 16© 2012 IBM Corporation The Open Data Protocol (OData) is an emerging standard  Based on web technology standards HTTP, Atom Publishing Protocol (AtomPub), JSON, and REST  OData is used to access data in various data sources Relational databases, file systems, content management, web sites, etc.  See ecosystem link on to see current list of Consumers: Applications to process OData Applications: Applications exposing OData Producers: Live OData Services Sample Services and Sample Code  Link to article about OData and RDF -> Source:
  17. 17. 17© 2012 IBM Corporation Socrata is an open data vendor gaining market share  Growing list of customers (see list ->)  G7 cities working together on sharing applications by standardizing data formats: Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, New York, Seattle, Washington, DC, and San Francisco.  SODA is the Socrata Open Data API Customer Web site City of New Orleans City of Baltimore City of Austin SAMHSA City of San Francisco U.N.D.P. Kenya New York City State of Illinois King County Cook County City of Edmonton Medicare State of Oregon State of Oklahoma City of Chicago City of Seattle State of Colorado Region of Lombardia State of Missouri City of De Leon source:
  18. 18. 18© 2012 IBM Corporation Widgets Government agencies are now creating interactive widgets and gadgets that can be embedded into other web sites. Examples: US Census Environment Protection Agency (EPA) Sources:,
  19. 19. 19© 2012 IBM Corporation Open 311 Source:
  20. 20. 20© 2012 IBM Corporation For more information  Open Government Initiatives ->  Global Pulse ->  Open Government Data Catalog (RDF) ->  Global City Indicators ->  NNIP Best Metro Data Releases of 2011 ->  US Census Developer page ->  Dept of Labor Developer web site ->  EPA Developer page ->
  21. 21. Thank you.