Here is the rationale that U.S. President Obama laid out for open data in one of his first acts in government. I should point out here that many people in the US federal civil service were initially really nervous about this. They worried, as we did here at the City, that the data might be misunderstood or misinterpreted. The President was clear tho – he said he wanted an unprecedented level of openness. Obama and his CTO constantly reminded people that this data didn’t belong to them. It belonged to the citizens of the United States and they had a duty to deliver the data to its rightful owners.
The overall winner in Ottawa is an application that can be downloaded and used on android phones, and is described as a free augmented reality based tour guide for the city of Ottawa. It uses technology to superimpose digital information about your current location on objects as seen through the "eyes" of your smart phone's camera in real time. It also provides location-based information about Ottawa landmarks, festivals & events, restaurants, shopping centres, and entertainment and nitelife.
This is another winning app designed for mobile and desktop use, that lets users find their nearest dog park.
Here in London the City has partnered with UnLondon, a local non-profit group, to hold our first ever app contest. London was one of the first Canadian cities to release its budget data in open format. So this year, usingthose budget files, we’re challenging people in the community to build an app (this could be a website, infographic, visualization or mobile app) that makes it easier for the public to understand the City’s budget and encourage people to get involved in the 2012 budget process. UnLondon will be awarding a total of $5000 in prize money in five categories for this contest.
This is one example of how London’s open data was used by a developer within weeks of our first release of data sets. So you can look up all the City’s recreational facilities and parks, map it, check features, hours of operations, whatever you want, on your iphone or ipod.
We had a group of about 20 people – mostly people working in the technology and web development sectors approach the City. They asked us to consider how the City was supporting the technology industry in London. They raised issues of open data, open source technologies, as well as other social media initiatives they thought the City should be involved in. I had been reading and researching open government concepts and was interested in exploring open data.
In order to get things moving in London, I convened a working group – so we had staff from our technology services, communications, legal, privacy areas, and we brought in people from program areas as needed – so for example, we brought in the Finance staff when we were looking at the budget files. Our first task was to set some terms of reference – so we figured out what our group was going to work on. And once we agreed that we wanted to move forward, our biggest task was to decide on some criteria for decision making around what data sets may be released.
As I mentioned, our working group felt strongly that we needed to develop specific criteria against which to measure requests for data sets. Wherever possible, the City of London is committed to freely share with citizens, businesses and other jurisdictions the greatest amount of data possible. So these are the kinds of criteria we will consider.
We’ve learned a lot through this process. First off, we learned that City staff did not have experience in creating certain file formats and files are often more complicated to convert than just “save as”. Following our initial release of parks and rec data, we were able to provide election results in raw format, data on the inventory of trees on public property and the current and archival and current budget files for the City budget as I mentioned. We’ve also acknowledged that open data is a long-term initiative that may take several years to show real benefits and we need to continue to expand the initiative wherever possible.
As I said at the beginning of my presentation –, open data is one new way we can improve engagement with our citizens. In a very small way, the City’s journey towards having an open data policy has allowed me to engage with a group of people who are passionate about their city and want to make it a better place to live. The City’s willingness to consider open data has allowed them to become more involved with their local government – so it’s a two way street. Ultimately, if it makes information about the city more accessible and easy to use on a variety of platforms, regardless of whether you are astudent, a stay at home mom or a business person, it makes London a more vibrant community so I will continue to be the City’s most vocal supporter of the initiative.
Open data MISA_ON November 2011
Open Data – Foundational Component to Open Government Elaine Gamble, Managing Director, Corporate Communications, City of London November 24, 2011
“The way to make government responsible is tohold it accountable. And the way to make itaccountable is make it transparent so theAmerican people can know exactly whatdecisions are being made, how they’re beingmade, and whether their interests are being wellserved.”Barack Obama (January 21, 2009). Remarks by the President in Welcoming Senior Staff to theWhite House. The White House. Retrieved May 13, 2010, fromhttp://www.whitehous.gov/the_press_office/REmarksofthePresidentinWElcomingSeniorStaffandCabinetSecretariestotheWhiteHouse. 2
What is Open Data?Open data is a philosophy and practicerequiring that certain data are made availableto the public, without restrictions fromcopyright, patents or other mechanisms ofcontrol, for free and in a machine readableformat.
Why do it?The goal of open data is to make governmentopen, accessible and transparent andencourage more participation in government.Many examples also show it can savegovernment money.David Eaves:http://eaves.ca/2010/04/14/case-study-open-data-and-the-public-purse/
Benefits of Open Data• Demonstrates commitment to transparency, accountability, innovation• Provides developers and others with free access to data in a usable/re-usable format• Creates opportunity to use data in new and innovative ways that government may not have considered or have the expertise or time to create• Contributes to the strength and vibrancy of the digital media economy within the City
Challenges for Government• Corporate culture – from control to open government concept• Policy – from a “fee for data” to a “free data” policy• Legal considerations – privacy, intellectual property, liability• Resources – scope, managing expectations and sustainability• Branding and accuracy – potential confusion of who’s responsible
How Did London Get Started?• Open data advocates approached the City• We agreed to explore the idea• Internal group developed the initiative – Review other cities efforts – Discuss risks and benefits – Investigate potential data sets – Seek Council approval for the initiative 15
Getting Started• Get the right people in the room• Research other cities• Get Council approval for the initiative/policy• Develop internal terms of reference – Criteria for decision-making – Monitor use of data – Evaluate costs, staff resources, benefits, risks – Liaise with the community to find out what their needs are 16
Criteria for Consideration• Public: Is the data already publicly available?• Cost/time: To obtain and convert the data to a raw format?• Privacy: Can it be released under privacy legislation?• Security: Does the data represent a security threat?• Public Interest: is there a threat to the public interest?• Third party contractual obligations which would prevent release?• Legislation: Is it compliant with any other legislation?
Requests for Data Sets• Transit data• Boundary files, wards, official planning areas• Garbage collection dates and geographic zones• Election results by ward and poll• Tree census and tree inventory data• Budget and financial statement info• Water quality test results
Latest Update• ‘Beta’ website launched in September 2010• Internal consultation – inform, educate• Evaluate human resources and costs associated with expanding the initiative• Liaise with members of the community• Look at new and existing data sets to determine future releases• Budget app contest launched in November 2011
For More InformationElaine Gamble John BontjeManaging Director, Manager, TechnologyCorporate Communications Services Departmentwww.london.ca/open firstname.lastname@example.org @londoncomms 519-661-2500, ext. 4891 email@example.com, ext. 4782 22