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Cook County (IL) Open Government Plan


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September 2011

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Cook County (IL) Open Government Plan

  1. 1. Open Government Plan Cook County, Illinois Cook County Board of Commissioners Toni Preckwinkle, President “The Internet is the public space of the modern world, and through it governments now have the opportunity to better understand the needs of their citizens and citizens may participate more fully in their government. Information becomes more valuable as it is shared, less valuable as it is hoarded. Open data promotes increased civil discourse, improved public welfare, and a more efficient use of public resources.” -
  2. 2. Cook County Open Government Plan 1. Government 2.0 and Open Cook County 2. Open Data Planning and Administration a. Cook County Open Government Ordinance b. Open Data Portal c. Working Group d. Governance 3. Open Government Policies and Principles a. Open Data Defined b. Open Government Plan c. Public Domain 4. Cook County Open Data Catalog a. Courts b. Economic Development c. Finance and Administration d. Forest Preserves, Parks and Recreation e. GIS/Map Data f. Healthcare g. Property and Taxation h. Public Safety i. Standard File Formats and API j. Tutorials 5. Innovation, Challenges and Future Direction 6. Appendix: Cook County Open Government Ordinance 7. Appendix: Open Data Commons Public Domain License 8. Appendix: What is Open Data?Cook  County  Open  Government  Plan  (rev  9/21/11)   2    
  3. 3. 1. Government 2.0 and Open Cook County “While open data may seem at first glance like something reserved for technology geeks, the intention of the open data movement is the opposite of exclusivity: it aims to foster an understanding of government information for the average citizen. While not everyone will make use of the data, it’s important for citizens to know that it’s accurate and available, and that accessible data is a right, not a privilege. It is also an increasingly important skill for participation in the information and knowledge economy.” (from Open Data, Open City, University of Toronto: September, 2010)Open government—sometimes referred toas Government 2.0—is a relatively newactivity that is being launched by many What is government 2.0?national, state-level and local governmentsworldwide. While governments have for 0.5 is putting information onlinesome time made statistical datasets (for 1.0 is filling out forms electronicallyexample, aggregated Census information)available publicly—originally in published 1.5 is providing citizens with waysbooks and tables, then on diskette, and for to complain to government aboutthe past 10-15 years downloadable or an issueviewable on public-facing websites—therecent open government movement is 2.0 is creating platforms for citizens to collaborate around informationunique in that it applies a standards-based to improve outcomesapproach to the release of governmentdatasets to the public. Why should we open government? Opening government increases publicData made public under open government trust, makes government more responsive, efficient, effective andstandards adheres to stricter, reviewable, fair, and breaks down silos within andguidelines than datasets of the past. Data is across agencies.provided at one “portal” address on the webper government entity (in Cook County’s Source: Excerpted from “Citizensourcing smarter government in New York City,” bycase, this is, rather Alex Howard, accessed atthan spread over dozens or even hundreds web pages per existing practice. smart-government.html, 4/1/11“Metadata”—information about thedataset—includes information about howoften the dataset will be updated orrefreshed, the source of the data, and whopublished it. In addition, open government data is presented in a way thatmakes it possible for developers of web-based or mobile applications to“attach” to the dataset to feed current and even real-time data to the applicationas it is used.Cook  County  Open  Government  Plan  (rev  9/21/11)   3    
  4. 4. Historically, there has been a lack of public understanding about what CookCounty government does, and how tax dollars are collected and spent. Countygovernment has unfortunately often contributed to this lack of understanding bymaking information difficult to find or obtain, and because many Countysystems and processes are still paper-based, so data is not readily available in adigital format.As highlighted in the April, 2011, presentation “Open Cook County Plan”(available at, a historical lack of transparency “means many local citizen activistsare disengaged and cynical. Lack of transparency breeds doubt, skepticism,inefficiency and corruption.”There have been several notable prior efforts by Cook County elected officialsand departments to improve transparency and accountability of Countygovernment.These include, but are not limited to, the County Clerk’s “Lobbyist Online”website (, which allowsusers to search lobbyist reporting by lobbyist, subject matter and County officiallobbied, and offers direct download of the database by reporting period. TheClerk provides similar access to information from Statements of EconomicInterest filed by County employees.The Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court provides online lookup of mortgageforeclosures and unclaimed child support payments, in addition to online casefiling, online traffic ticket payment, and other services.The Cook County Sheriff’s Office recently began providing online search forcriminal warrants and child support warrants, as well as an online inmate searchfunction.In addition, property-related offices such as the Cook County Recorder ofDeeds, Assessor and Treasurer have for some time provided the ability tosearch online for data regarding individual parcels, including sales, assessment,exemptions, taxes and refund information. Typically the function is set up sothe user can search for information about a single parcel. These offices willprovide access to their complete property datasets for a fee, normally forcommercial purposes. The Treasurer also provides search functions for estatesof heirs and uncashed checks.Cook  County  Open  Government  Plan  (rev  9/21/11)   4    
  5. 5. The Cook County Department of Public Health, part of the Health and HospitalsSystem, offers a number of downloadable pdfs with health information andstatistics at these efforts should be recognized,open government advocates would have a Open Data is the publishing of once-number of issues with Cook County’s hidden government data to a freecurrently available datasets: public data website, or catalog. Open Data: • Datasets are scattered over hundreds of Cook County government 1) allows the public to look at data webpages that is collected and created on their • There is no consistency to the format behalf; of datasets 2) gives the public a tool to help • Most data is not machine-readable, measure government effectiveness so it can’t be downloaded into a and efficiency; spreadsheet or program; the search function is convenient but allows 3) provides an opportunity for civic- access to only one record at a time minded technology entrepreneurs to use government data free of charge in • Some datasets are months or years order to build free and paid old applications that add value to the lives of citizens. They can leverageWith this background in mind, in April, 2011, this data to start technology businesses, as well as grow jobs inPresident Preckwinkle and Commissioner existing ones.Fritchey introduced a “Cook County OpenGovernment Ordinance” designed to Source: “Open Cook County Plan,” April, 2011. Accessed at“increase transparency, accountability, and public participation, and to create content/uploads/2011/04/Red-Cook.ppteconomic development opportunities” inCook County. The ordinance, which wasco-sponsored by seven otherCommissioners and passed by the fullCounty Board in May, 2011, requires Cook County agencies and electedofficials to comply with a number of open government directives going forward(the complete ordinance text is in the Appendix to this document).The ordinance mandates a single website (, which nowredirects to be established to host all of the opendata datasets to be published under the new law.The ordinance requires agencies to prepare open government plans (initially thisdocument), to develop data catalogs, and to post at least three “high value”Cook  County  Open  Government  Plan  (rev  9/21/11)   5    
  6. 6. datasets each to the County’s open data site within 120 days of its effectivedate.The result, “, the Open Data Portal for Cook CountyGovernment” (, includes datasets in the followingareas: Courts; Economic Development; Finance and Administration; ForestPreserve, Parks and Recreation; Geography/Maps; Healthcare; Property andTaxation; and Public Safety. These categories conform to the major activities ofcounty-level government, with the addition of Geography/Maps for geographic-based data such as location of County facilities.Some of the most requested data can be found in the Finance andAdministration category. This category will include: • Performance management data from the President’s quarterly performance management reports • Salary information for County employees • Payments to companies and individuals doing business with Cook County • Information on County contracts • Information on Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requestsIn December 2010, President Preckwinkle’s transition report laid out thePresident’s goals for transparency and accountability—key goals of the newadministration—as follows: “Transparency and Accountability: A government that is transparent and accountable to its residents is a more effective government. Improve transparency and accountability of County government, in particular by improving public information about hiring, purchasing and the overall use of taxpayer dollars. This would strengthen public trust in County government and bolster morale of its employees.” (Cook County Transition Report, accessed at ads/CookCountyTransitionReport_2010.pdf)Cook County’s open government site is one in a series of transparencyinitiatives undertaken by the Preckwinkle administration. In addition, thefollowing initiatives have been launched—many in cooperation with otherelected officials and the Board of Commissioners—in the first ten months of theadministration:• President’s Public Calendar• Implemented “S.T.A.R.”, a performance management tool used to help county agencies set goals for efficiency and achieve them.• 2011 Forest Preserve budget request posted onlineCook  County  Open  Government  Plan  (rev  9/21/11)   6    
  7. 7. • 2011 Cook County budget posted online• “Make Cook County More Efficient” public survey• New County blog site (• Posted an improved County check register online• Posted a 100-day report and follow-up online• Required county employees to log political contacts• Sought out ideas from employees on how to make Cook County more efficient, put the best ideas up for public vote, and awarded “Frontline Award” to the winner• Published information on boards and committees; now taking applications online• Live audio broadcast of Cook County Board of Commissioners meetings• Posted video of Cook County Board meetings, viewable by agenda item• Added BrowseAloud software to help the visually impaired use the county website• Launched a new interactive budget website where the public can learn more about how government finances work and interact• Held a live townhall webcast and real-time public blog for the 2012 Budget• Worked with the Assessor’s office and Board of Review to launch online filing of assessment appeals(See for an updated list of transparencyinitiatives.)Cook  County  Open  Government  Plan  (rev  9/21/11)   7    
  8. 8. 2. Open Data Planning and Administration a. Cook County Open Government OrdinanceOn May 4, 2011, the Cook County Board of Commissioners unanimouslyapproved the Cook County Open Government Plan ordinance, sponsored byPresident Preckwinkle and Commissioner Fritchey and co-sponsored byCommissioners Gainer, Gorman, Goslin, Schneider, Silvestri, Suffredin andTobolski.The stated purpose of the ordinance is as follows: “In order to increasetransparency, accountability, and informed public participation, and to createeconomic development opportunities, Cook County ("County") departments andagencies, including the offices of the separately elected County officials("County Officials" or "County Agency") shall expand access to information, bymaking certain information available online in a machine-readable, open format,that can be retrieved, downloaded, indexed, sorted, searched, and reused bycommonly used Web search applications and commonly used open formatsoftware that facilitate access to, and the reuse of, such information.” (Allcitations in this section refer to Ordinance No. 11-O-54, 5-4-2011, of the Codeof Ordinances of Cook County, Illinois.)The ordinance mandates a number of activities and tasks within Cook Countygovernment that are described in greater detail in this section. The ordinancedoes not provide any additional resources for these activities and tasks beyondthe existing staff and financial resources of County government.The complete text of the ordinance is available in the Appendix to thisdocument. b. Open Data PortalThe ordinance requires that Cook County establish a single open data portal,, a “common website that shall serve as the source forcountywide and departmental activities” pursuant to the ordinance. Becausethe County has been working closely with the City of Chicago and the State ofIllinois on a regional, federated open data model (see Section 5 below), it wasdecided after the ordinance was passed to use a more standard namingconvention for the County’s open data website address. The new url for theCounty’s open data website is County entered into a subscription agreement with Socrata( in August, 2011, to host the County’s open data portal. Thiswas the result of a series of discussions with and presentations to the CountyCook  County  Open  Government  Plan  (rev  9/21/11)   8    
  9. 9. working group (see below). In these meetings, the working group discussedwhether to use a website host that could provide commercial off-the-shelf(COTS) functionality for open data, or to build an open data portal based onopen government standards using CKAN open source data portal software.The decision to use Socrata as an open data platform was based on thefollowing: (1) the County’s lack of staff resources familiar with CKAN; (2) the factthat the City of Chicago and State of Illinois had already contracted with Socrataand were partners with the County on open data and on the Apps forMetropolitan Chicago competition (see section 5 below); and (3) the relativelylower cost of using the hosted solution.The Socrata platform has a number of prebuilt tools that provide much of thefunctionality required by open data standards and principles and, by extension,the Cook County Open Government ordinance. For example, the platformprovides an opportunity for users to publicly comment on individual datasetsusing the “Discuss” feature. It allows users to contact the dataset owner withquestions or comments, or to suggest new dataset ideas. Social media(Facebook, Twitter) and email can be used to share a dataset or particular viewwith others. And the site provides a ranking feature, so that datasets can beranked by popularity (most viewed).Another advantage of a hosted site is that the public data is kept physically andvirtually separate from the County systems that generated it, which avoids anypotential issues for the County in terms of systems architecture when systemsinclude a public-facing web component.The Open Government ordinance requires County officials to use their bestefforts to publish information to the website, including, but not limited to“revenue, spending and procurement information; crime and health statistics;contracts with private firms; policies or procedures; and other data orinformation commonly requested pursuant to FOIA”. It is important to note thatthe ordinance does not affect any provisions of FOIA, which is a state law; ifgovernment data is subject to release under FOIA, it is able to be published onthe County’s open data site, and if the release of data is exempt from FOIA, it isnot required to be published on the County’s open data site.Moreover, while the ordinance requires each agency to publish three datasets tothe website within 120 days of passage, and then on an ongoing basisthereafter, it is up to the agency to determine which datasets to publish. But“the presumption shall be in favor of openness (emphasis added), to the extentpermitted by law and subject to valid privacy, confidentiality, security, or otherrestrictions and exemptions afforded under FOIA or other applicable federal,Cook  County  Open  Government  Plan  (rev  9/21/11)   9    
  10. 10. state or local laws.” Ultimately, all County data not exempt from FOIA norsubject to other privacy or security limitations is expected to be published onthe website or made available through other means.The ordinance also requires that the County develop schedules for making dataavailable, and indicate when information is updated. This is addressed byincluding “metadata” with each dataset indicating its date of posting to thewebsite and the frequency with which it is planned to be updated.An important set of requirements in the ordinance concern the creation of “datacatalogs” by County agencies. The data catalog includes a listing of the publicinformation that is available online by agency; whether the information is publiclyaccessible; if so, the date it was made public; the date it was last updated; if thedata is from a primary source or is derived or modified from a primary source;and whether there are any license or privacy restrictions on the data.These requirements will be handled within the metadata section for eachdataset, which includes relevant information regarding the date the dataset isposted, the frequency of update, the source of the dataset, and whether thereare any restrictions on its use. The data catalog is the primary view whenentering the County’s open data website, and it may be sorted by most popular,date added, or alphabetically by agency; or may be browsed by subject matter.On the launch date of the site, agencies were expected to have at least three“high-value” datasets “or other types of previously non-publicly accessibleinformation” posted to the open data site per the ordinance.At this point, agencies submit appropriately formatted datasets to the CookCounty Bureau of Technology for uploading onto the open data website. Oncethe site is operational for 60 days it may be possible with appropriateprocedures in place to give agencies access to post updates and new datasetsdirectly to the website.Each agency will be expected to publish all FOIA requests, as well as the statusof each request, in an open format on the website (“unless a request is subjectto valid privacy, security, or privilege limitations”).The ordinance provides that, where appropriate, the County may establishlicenses or restrictions on data published on the website. Unless otherwisestated, the County will apply the Open Data Commons Public Domain license(see section 3 below and Appendix) to govern the use of its public data. c. Working GroupCook  County  Open  Government  Plan  (rev  9/21/11)   10    
  11. 11. The ordinance requires that the President establish a working group to focus on“transparency, accountability, public participation and collaboration withinCounty government”. The working group, consisting of representatives from theOffice of the President, the Bureau of Technology, and elected officials, as wellas staff resources contributed pro bono from the Civic Consulting Alliance, metover the course of three months from May to August, 2011, to develop the opengovernment plan, with particular emphasis on these elements.Members of the working group presented the open government plan and opendata requirements at meetings of the County’s Information TechnologyCollaborative Board. The IT Collaborative Board is the joint IT planning boardfor the County, with representation from the Bureau of Technology, other Officesunder the President, all elected officials, and the Cook County Health andHospitals System.The working group has also engaged not-for-profit organizations andfoundations on the subject of open government as part of the County’s overallfoundation collaborative. The purpose of this effort is to:• Engage the public, foundations, universities, researchers, students, developers, NGOs and government agencies around the idea of open government.• Generate and evaluate ideas about what kinds of data Cook County government should gather and make public.• Support the County’s efforts to publish open datasets.The working group will reach out to the foundation collaborative to helpestablish an Open Government Advisory Board, consisting of researchers,developers, and government and non-profit leaders with knowledge andbackground in the areas of public data transparency, participation,collaboration, analytics and applications. The County will seek the assistance ofAdvisory Board members in the following activities:Transparency Forum. “The working group shall provide a forum to share bestpractices on innovative ideas to promote transparency. This shall includesystem and process solutions for information collection, aggregation, validationand dissemination.”Participation and Collaboration Forum. “The working group shall provide aforum to share best practices on innovative ideas to promote participation andcollaboration, including how to experiment with new technologies, takeadvantage of the expertise and insight of people both inside and outside ofCounty government, and form high-impact collaborations with researchers, theprivate sector, and the public.”Cook  County  Open  Government  Plan  (rev  9/21/11)   11    
  12. 12. Public Input Forum. Cook County’s open data portal provides directopportunities for public input in the form of rankings of datasets and publiccomments. In addition, the working group has solicited ideas from the publicvia online polls, and will work with the Advisory Board to plan additionalopportunities for public input. d. GovernanceThe Open Government website is managed by the Cook County Bureau ofTechnology, but the responsibility and accountability for the data published onthe site is with the individual agencies, departments and elected officials ofCook County. The Bureau of Technology will serve as a facilitator to postdatasets to the site and maintain and expand the features and functionality ofthe site. Agencies will ensure the quality of datasets and conformance ofdatasets with open data standards and principles.On a periodic basis, the working group will meet with the County’s ITCollaborative Board to provide status reports on open data, make available anynew information on dataset formats or site content management, requestadditional datasets and updates of existing datasets, and report on agencyresponsiveness to public comments and requests on the open data portal. Onan ongoing basis, per the ordinance, the CIO will “identify impediments to opengovernment and to the use of new technologies and, where necessary, (will)issue clarifying guidance and/or propose revisions to such policies to promotegreater openness in government.Cook  County  Open  Government  Plan  (rev  9/21/11)   12    
  13. 13. 3. Open Government Policies and Principles a. Open Data DefinedIn December, 2007, an “OpenGovernment Working Group” was Government data shall be considered open if itconvened by Public.Resource.Org is made public in a way that complies with the( and principles below:O’Reilly Media, with sponsorshipfrom the Sunlight Foundation, 1. Complete. All public data is made available.Google and Yahoo. Out of that two- Public data is data that is not subject to valid privacy, security or privilege event, the following principlesregarding the “openness” of open 2. Primary. Data is as collected at the source, with the highest possible level of granularity, notgovernment data were developed. in aggregate or modified forms.Cook County considers these eightprinciples of open government data 3. Timely. Data is made available as quickly as necessary to preserve the value of the determining what datasets topost to its open data site, the 4. Accessible. Data is available to the widest range of users for the widest range of purposes.frequency of posting, controls andlicenses, and data format. 5. Machine-processable. Data is reasonably structured to allow automated processing. b. Open Government Plan 6. Non-discriminatory. Data is available to anyone, with no requirement of registration. 7. Non-proprietary. Data is available in aCook County’s Open Government format over which no entity has exclusiveordinance requires the publication control.of an Open Government Plan. Per 8. License-free. Data is not subject tothe requirements of the ordinance, any copyright, patent, trademark orthis Plan describes how trade secret regulation. Reasonabledepartments will enhance and privacy, security and privilegedevelop transparency, public restrictions may be allowed.participation, and collaboration. It Compliance must be reviewable.describes steps the County hastaken to conduct its work more Retrieved fromopenly and to publish information, June 7,online. Finally, this Plan describes 2011how the County will create moreaccess to information andopportunities for publicparticipation.For FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests, the County uses a highlymanual process to meet the provisions of the law for responding to requests forinspection or copies of public records (see Theonline data catalog includes copies of the FOIA requests that have beenCook  County  Open  Government  Plan  (rev  9/21/11)   13    
  14. 14. submitted to the County and a summary of action taken. Going forward, theCounty will post to the data catalog datasets that have been provided inresponse to FOIA requests. Again, as the ordinance states, “the presumptionshall be in favor of openness, to the extent permitted by law and subject to validprivacy, confidentiality, security, or other restrictions and exemptions affordedunder FOIA or other applicable federal, state or local laws.” It is expected thatas more datasets are added to the data catalog, public data requests will behandled directly by posting datasets to the site, or by referring the requestor tothe site, and the need for manual processing to fulfill data requests via FOIA willdiminish.Additional requirements of the Open Government ordinance addressed in thisPlan are as follows (with references to location in this document): • Describe steps the County is taking to enhance and expand its practices to further cooperation among County Agencies, other governmental agencies, the public, and nonprofit and private entities in fulfilling the goals and objectives of the County (section 1, Government 2.0 and Open Cook County). • Describe proposed changes to internal management and administrative policies to improve collaboration (section 2, Working Group and Governance). • Describe proposals to use technology platforms to improve collaboration among employees and the public (section 2, Open Data Portal). • Describe links to appropriate websites where the public can learn about collaboration efforts (section 1 and throughout). • Describe innovative methods, such as prizes and competitions, to obtain ideas from, and to increase collaboration with, the public, as well as those in the private sector, nonprofit, and academic communities (section 5). • The website shall additionally include a mechanism that shall allow for the public to provide feedback to the County on, and assess the quality of, published information. This mechanism shall additionally allow for recommendations from the public to the County of other information to consider prioritizing for publication (section 2, Open Data Portal). • Each County agency shall engage in its best efforts to respond to public feedback received via the website on a regular, timely basis. ResponsesCook  County  Open  Government  Plan  (rev  9/21/11)   14    
  15. 15. to such public feedback may include descriptions of actions taken, or reasons for not taking action, based on such public feedback received (section 2, Governance). c. Public DomainDatasets that are released through the County’s open data site are considered“public domain” unless otherwise stated. Cook County and the users of CookCounty open data agree to abide by the provisions of an Open Data CommonsPublic Domain License. The open data commons public domain license isconsidered the model license governing use of government-issued datasets.For specific terms of the public domain license please see the Appendix.Cook  County  Open  Government  Plan  (rev  9/21/11)   15    
  16. 16. Open Cook County Plan 1:  Ordinance   Cook  County’s  open  data  ordinance  begins  making  d ata  public.    Agency  heads  partner  with   Board  President  and  Commissioners  to  make  initial  high-­‐value  d atasets  public.   • This ordinance formalizes our open government plan and changes the County’s data bias from private to public. • County leaders built our ordinance using model legislation from other municipalities like San Francisco and King County, Washington. • Our ordinance considers best principles of open data, as well as the model of President Obama’s Federal Directive and the Local Open Government Directive created by representatives from Code for America, the Sunlight Foundation and others. 2:    Data  Portal   County  launches  a  single-­‐site  portal  centralizing  data  in  developer-­‐friendly  formats.    Data   offerings  continuously  expand.   • The County will create a single-site data portal that centralizes new and existing public data sets in machine-readable, developer-friendly formats. • Our portal will build on the success of open data portals in other municipalities, such as New York City, San Francisco and Washington, DC. • Our portal will build on the success of the federal open data portal: 3:    App  Contests  and  Data  Camps   County  encourages  developers  and  activists  to  drive  new  and  improved  government  services   through  mobile  apps  and  data  visualizations.   • In open government municipalities, data-enabled developers and activists have revolutionized government services using mobile apps. • We will encourage and incentivize citizens to find inefficiencies and to visualize data in ways that contribute to the policy conversation. • We will encourage and incentivize developers and activists to help us make our government better using contests, data camps and other programs. 4:    Continuous  Improvement   County  expands  data  offerings,  provides  ongoing  incentives  for  developers  and  activists  and   opens  a  conversation  about  improving  our  government.   • Open government is a growing, maturing movement. • We will begin a running conversation with local thought leaders and activists to identify ways to improve our government and to bring new and more meaningful data to the public. • Chicago’s developing technology cluster, anchored by companies like Groupon and Everyblock, drives leading developers and open government thinkers to Cook County. Source: “Open Cook County Plan,” April, 2011. Accessed at content/uploads/2011/04/Red-Cook.pptCook  County  Open  Government  Plan  (rev  9/21/11)   16    
  17. 17. 4. Cook County Open Data CatalogAs described in detail in section 2, the County’s open data website waslaunched in conjunction with collaborative efforts between state and localgovernments, elected officials, civic groups, and representatives of thetechnology and open data community. Moreover, the Cook County Open Datasite is built on the same platform that powers the Open Data initiatives at thefederal level, the State of Illinois.The open data site is populated with Countywide information from more than 40departments in County government. As of the date of this report, featured datasets at include a year-to-date map of foreclosuresin Cook County and a map of outpatient registrations within the Cook CountyHealth and Hospital System (CCHHS) – the beginning of an accurate look atwho uses CCHHS resources. There are more than 75 data sets that reflect themost up-to-date information available throughout the County, including officesof separately elected officials. The complete catalog of data sets can be foundat (this site can be also be accessed fromthe site home page). a. CourtsCourts datasets posted to the site will include directory information, courtstatistics, data on unclaimed child support, b. Economic DevelopmentEconomic Development datasets posted to the site will include data onCountywide capital planning, facility locations, building and zoning, andplanning and development. c. Finance and AdministrationFinance and Administration datasets posted to the site will include data onrevenue collection, expenditures, payroll, vendor payments, financial reports,budgets, utility costs, environmental control, highways, adoption, FOIArequests, human resources, risk management, performance management,lobbyist information, statements of economic interest and other ethics data. d. Forest Preserves, Parks and RecreationCook  County  Open  Government  Plan  (rev  9/21/11)   17    
  18. 18. Forest Preserves, Parks and Recreation datasets posted to the site will includedata on boundaries, trails, shelters, groves, lakes, statistics and public activities. e. GIS/Map DataGIS/Map datasets posted to the site will include point files and shape filesshowing locations of schools, hospitals, cemeteries, roads, lakes, and Countygovernment facilities. f. HealthcareHealthcare datasets posted to the site will include data on public health, inmatecare, outpatients by general location, and County employee and retireehealthcare. g. Property and TaxationProperty and Taxation datasets posted to the site will include data onassessment appeals, homeowner exemptions, foreclosures, and scavengersales. h. Public SafetyPublic Safety datasets posted to the site will include inmate statistics, crimedata, criminal warrants and child support warrants. i. Standard File Formats and APIData provided by Cook County on its open data site is available for download inone or more of the following common formats:Cook  County  Open  Government  Plan  (rev  9/21/11)   18    
  19. 19. Source: “Democratizing data for open government,” retrieved from, September 16, 2011Cook  County  Open  Government  Plan  (rev  9/21/11)   19    
  20. 20. Socrata provides an open-source application programming interface (API) calledSODA for application linking to any dataset on the Cook County open data site.Details on the SODA API are available at: j. TutorialsThe County’s open data portal includes a video tutorial in eight parts on how touse open data, how to create visualizations using the tools available on the site,and how to create applications. These video tutorials are available at theTutorials tab at  County  Open  Government  Plan  (rev  9/21/11)   20    
  21. 21. 5. Innovation, Challenges and Future DirectionBeyond the clear improvements to government transparency and accountability,open government carries a very specific meaning. Open government meansputting data about government operations and public data that governmentmaintains--such as economic development data, public safety data, financialdata, and locational data—onto a public-facing website in an open format thatallows users to see all the data, to download it, and to point to it with custom-built software applications.This is much different from putting a table, or a pdf document, or a searchfunction on the web. With open government, the power to map the data, orcreate a graph from it, or build a mobile app from it is in the user’s hands.Over the past year the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois have begun topublish data according to open government standards., Cook County joins them along with a host of other localgovernments including Washington DC, Baltimore, New York City, SanFrancisco, Vancouver, Canada and London, England in the open governmentmovement.Many people were instrumental in this effort in Cook County and will continue toplay a role in sustaining it, from the sponsors of the Open Governmentordinance to elected officials, the Civic Consulting Alliance, local universities,the Cook County Bureau of Technology, the County’s partners in Apps for MetroChicago, Socrata, and the Open Government Chicagoland group.The County’s IT Collaborative Board, the Countywide IT planning group thatincludes representation from all the County elected officials, was engagedthroughout this period and will play an important role in growing the number ofdatasets on the open data website going forward.The County has been a partner on the Apps for Metro Chicago competition( from the beginning with the City of Chicago,the State of Illinois (including the Illinois Science & Technology Coalition), theChicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), the Metropolitan ChicagoInformation Center, the Civic Consulting Alliance, Motorola, the ChicagoCommunity Trust, and the MacArthur Foundation, and the launch makes more datasets available for that program. Theapps competition has three phases in which developers compete for cashawards to develop the best web or mobile application that uses public data.Apps for Metro Chicago is the first contest that has involved multiple publicCook  County  Open  Government  Plan  (rev  9/21/11)   21    
  22. 22. participants from a metropolitan region, with the City, the County, CMAP andthe State all involved and all sharing data in an open government format.Cook County’s agreement with Socrata to host the County’s open data siteincludes a provision that Socrata will provide a single “federated” site on whichall of the Cook County, City of Chicago and State of Illinois datasets that are onthe individual government sites will be available. This federated site can serveas a “one stop shop” for developers and the public for current datasets from thethree partner governments.Future development of the federated site should include adding other Illinoislocal government data by municipality, school district, or other taxing body. Thelead partners—City, County and State—can communicate with Councils ofGovernment and government and educational associations to provideinformation about the open data platform, and provide a structure formaintaining other government datasets on a common platform.At the same time, the partner agencies can work with CMAP to determine howto improve the sharing of public sector data. CMAP maintains the Metropulsewebsite (, a public portal created by theChicago Community Trust and CMAP featuring a wide array of Chicagometropolitan area data including transportation, land use, public safety,workforce, housing and education data.Open government, when it is joined with active citizen engagement, can have alasting effect on how government interacts with the public at large. The internethas become a “location” of choice for people to interact with governmentoffices. As technology improves, expectations will increase for governmentwebsites to be more responsive to people’s needs.One clear area for improvement is for County processes such as propertyassessment and taxation, or public meeting agendas and minutes, to beenabled as “end-to-end” functions, so that from the perspective of the user onthe internet, the County appears as a single entity rather than a collection ofindependent offices. This will require both technological innovation as well asorganizational innovation, and will be the challenge of the coming decade asCounty government seeks to move more of its business online—to improveconvenience for citizens while at the same time reducing its day-to-dayoperating costs.Cook  County  Open  Government  Plan  (rev  9/21/11)   22    
  23. 23. 6. Appendix: Cook County Open Government Ordinance  Cook  County  Open  Government  Plan  (rev  9/21/11)   23    
  24. 24.      Cook  County  Open  Government  Plan  (rev  9/21/11)   24    
  25. 25.      Cook  County  Open  Government  Plan  (rev  9/21/11)   25    
  26. 26.  Cook  County  Open  Government  Plan  (rev  9/21/11)   26    
  27. 27. 7. Appendix: Open Data Commons Public Domain LicensePreambleThe Open Data Commons – Public Domain Dedication & Licence is a document intended toallow you to freely share, modify, and use this work for any purpose and without any restrictions.This licence is intended for use on databases or their contents (“data”), either together orindividually.Many databases are covered by copyright. Some jurisdictions, mainly in Europe, have specificspecial rights that cover databases called the “sui generis” database right. Both of these sets ofrights, as well as other legal rights used to protect databases and data, can create uncertainty orpractical difficulty for those wishing to share databases and their underlying data but retain alimited amount of rights under a “some rights reserved” approach to licensing as outlined in theScience Commons Protocol for Implementing Open Access Data. As a result, this waiver andlicence tries to the fullest extent possible to eliminate or fully license any rights that cover thisdatabase and data. Any Community Norms or similar statements of use of the database or datado not form a part of this document, and do not act as a contract for access or other terms ofuse for the database or data.The position of the recipient of the workBecause this document places the database and its contents in or as close as possible withinthe public domain, there are no restrictions or requirements placed on the recipient by thisdocument. Recipients may use this work commercially, use technical protection measures,combine this data or database with other databases or data, and share their changes andadditions or keep them secret. It is not a requirement that recipients provide further users with acopy of this licence or attribute the original creator of the data or database as a source. The goalis to eliminate restrictions held by the original creator of the data and database on the use of itby others.The position of the dedicator of the workCopyright law, as with most other law under the banner of “intellectual property”, is inherentlynational law. This means that there exists several differences in how copyright and other IPrights can be relinquished, waived or licensed in the many legal jurisdictions of the world. This isdespite much harmonisation of minimum levels of protection. The internet and othercommunication technologies span these many disparate legal jurisdictions and thus posespecial difficulties for a document relinquishing and waiving intellectual property rights, includingcopyright and database rights, for use by the global community. Because of this feature ofintellectual property law, this document first relinquishes the rights and waives the relevant rightsand claims. It then goes on to license these same rights for jurisdictions or areas of law that maymake it difficult to relinquish or waive rights or claims.The purpose of this document is to enable rightsholders to place their work into the publicdomain. Unlike licences for free and open source software, free cultural works, or open contentlicences, rightsholders will not be able to “dual license” their work by releasing the same workunder different licences. This is because they have allowed anyone to use the work in whateverway they choose. Rightsholders therefore can’t re-license it under copyright or database rightson different terms because they have nothing left to license. Doing so creates truly accessibledata to build rich applications and advance the progress of science and the arts.Cook  County  Open  Government  Plan  (rev  9/21/11)   27    
  28. 28. This document can cover either or both of the database and its contents (the data). Becausedatabases can have a wide variety of content – not just factual data – rightsholders should usethe Open Data Commons – Public Domain Dedication & Licence for an entire database and itscontents only if everything can be placed under the terms of this document. Because evenfactual data can sometimes have intellectual property rights, rightsholders should use thislicence to cover both the database and its factual data when making material available underthis document; even if it is likely that the data would not be covered by copyright or databaserights.Rightsholders can also use this document to cover any copyright or database rights claims overonly a database, and leave the contents to be covered by other licences or documents. Theycan do this because this document refers to the “Work”, which can be either – or both – thedatabase and its contents. As a result, rightsholders need to clearly state what they arededicating under this document when they dedicate it.Just like any licence or other document dealing with intellectual property, rightsholders shouldbe aware that one can only license what one owns. Please ensure that the rights have beencleared to make this material available under this document.This document permanently and irrevocably makes the Work available to the public for any useof any kind, and it should not be used unless the rightsholder is prepared for this to happen.Part I: IntroductionThe Rightsholder (the Person holding rights or claims over the Work) agrees as follows:1.0 Definitions of Capitalised Words“Copyright” – Includes rights under copyright and under neighbouring rights and similarly relatedsets of rights under the law of the relevant jurisdiction under Section 6.4.“Data” – The contents of the Database, which includes the information, independent works, orother material collected into the Database offered under the terms of this Document.“Database” – A collection of Data arranged in a systematic or methodical way and individuallyaccessible by electronic or other means offered under the terms of this Document.“Database Right” – Means rights over Data resulting from the Chapter III (“sui generis”) rights inthe Database Directive (Directive 96/9/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11March 1996 on the legal protection of databases) and any future updates as well as any similarrights available in the relevant jurisdiction under Section 6.4.“Document” – means this relinquishment and waiver of rights and claims and back up licenceagreement.“Person” – Means a natural or legal person or a body of persons corporate or incorporate.“Use” – As a verb, means doing any act that is restricted by Copyright or Database Rightswhether in the original medium or any other; and includes modifying the Work as may betechnically necessary to use it in a different mode or format. This includes the right to sublicensethe Work.“Work” – Means either or both of the Database and Data offered under the terms of thisDocument.Cook  County  Open  Government  Plan  (rev  9/21/11)   28    
  29. 29. “You” – the Person acquiring rights under the licence elements of this Document.Words in the singular include the plural and vice versa.2.0 What this document covers2.1. Legal effect of this Document. This Document is:a. A dedication to the public domain and waiver of Copyright and Database Rights over theWork; andb. A licence of Copyright and Database Rights over the Work in jurisdictions that do not allow forrelinquishment or waiver.2.2. Legal rights covered.a. Copyright. Any copyright or neighbouring rights in the Work. Copyright law varies betweenjurisdictions, but is likely to cover: the Database model or schema, which is the structure,arrangement, and organisation of the Database, and can also include the Database tables andtable indexes; the data entry and output sheets; and the Field names of Data stored in theDatabase. Copyright may also cover the Data depending on the jurisdiction and type of Data;andb. Database Rights. Database Rights only extend to the extraction and re-utilisation of the wholeor a substantial part of the Data. Database Rights can apply even when there is no copyrightover the Database. Database Rights can also apply when the Data is removed from theDatabase and is selected and arranged in a way that would not infringe any applicablecopyright.2.2 Rights not covered.a. This Document does not apply to computer programs used in the making or operation of theDatabase;b. This Document does not cover any patents over the Data or the Database. Please see Section4.2 later in this Document for further details; andc. This Document does not cover any trade marks associated with the Database. Please seeSection 4.3 later in this Document for further details.Users of this Database are cautioned that they may have to clear other rights or consult otherlicences.2.3 Facts are free. The Rightsholder takes the position that factual information is not covered byCopyright. This Document however covers the Work in jurisdictions that may protect the factualinformation in the Work by Copyright, and to cover any information protected by Copyright thatis contained in the Work.Part II: Dedication to the public domain3.0 Dedication, waiver, and licence of Copyright and Database Rights3.1 Dedication of Copyright and Database Rights to the public domain. The Rightsholder byusing this Document, dedicates the Work to the public domain for the benefit of the public andCook  County  Open  Government  Plan  (rev  9/21/11)   29    
  30. 30. relinquishes all rights in Copyright and Database Rights over the Work.a. The Rightsholder realises that once these rights are relinquished, that the Rightsholder has nofurther rights in Copyright and Database Rights over the Work, and that the Work is free andopen for others to Use.b. The Rightsholder intends for their relinquishment to cover all present and future rights in theWork under Copyright and Database Rights, whether they are vested or contingent rights, andthat this relinquishment of rights covers all their heirs and successors.The above relinquishment of rights applies worldwide and includes media and formats nowknown or created in the future.3.2 Waiver of rights and claims in Copyright and Database Rights when Section 3.1 dedicationinapplicable. If the dedication in Section 3.1 does not apply in the relevant jurisdiction underSection 6.4, the Rightsholder waives any rights and claims that the Rightsholder may have oracquire in the future over the Work in:a. Copyright; andb. Database Rights.To the extent possible in the relevant jurisdiction, the above waiver of rights and claims appliesworldwide and includes media and formats now known or created in the future. TheRightsholder agrees not to assert the above rights and waives the right to enforce them over theWork.3.3 Licence of Copyright and Database Rights when Sections 3.1 and 3.2 inapplicable. If thededication and waiver in Sections 3.1 and 3.2 does not apply in the relevant jurisdiction underSection 6.4, the Rightsholder and You agree as follows:a. The Licensor grants to You a worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive, licence to Use the Workfor the duration of any applicable Copyright and Database Rights. These rights explicitly includecommercial use, and do not exclude any field of endeavour. To the extent possible in therelevant jurisdiction, these rights may be exercised in all media and formats whether now knownor created in the future.3.4 Moral rights. This section covers moral rights, including the right to be identified as theauthor of the Work or to object to treatment that would otherwise prejudice the author’s honourand reputation, or any other derogatory treatment:a. For jurisdictions allowing waiver of moral rights, Licensor waives all moral rights that Licensormay have in the Work to the fullest extent possible by the law of the relevant jurisdiction underSection 6.4;b. If waiver of moral rights under Section 3.4 a in the relevant jurisdiction is not possible,Licensor agrees not to assert any moral rights over the Work and waives all claims in moralrights to the fullest extent possible by the law of the relevant jurisdiction under Section 6.4; andc. For jurisdictions not allowing waiver or an agreement not to assert moral rights under Section3.4 a and b, the author may retain their moral rights over the copyrighted aspects of the Work.Please note that some jurisdictions do not allow for the waiver of moral rights, and so moralrights may still subsist over the work in some jurisdictions.Cook  County  Open  Government  Plan  (rev  9/21/11)   30    
  31. 31. 4.0 Relationship to other rights4.1 No other contractual conditions. The Rightsholder makes this Work available to You withoutany other contractual obligations, either express or implied. Any Community Norms statementassociated with the Work is not a contract and does not form part of this Document.4.2 Relationship to patents. This Document does not grant You a licence for any patents that theRightsholder may own. Users of this Database are cautioned that they may have to clear otherrights or consult other licences.4.3 Relationship to trade marks. This Document does not grant You a licence for any trademarks that the Rightsholder may own or that the Rightsholder may use to cover the Work. Usersof this Database are cautioned that they may have to clear other rights or consult other licences.Part III: General provisions5.0 Warranties, disclaimer, and limitation of liability5.1 The Work is provided by the Rightsholder “as is” and without any warranty of any kind, eitherexpress or implied, whether of title, of accuracy or completeness, of the presence of absence oferrors, of fitness for purpose, or otherwise. Some jurisdictions do not allow the exclusion ofimplied warranties, so this exclusion may not apply to You.5.2 Subject to any liability that may not be excluded or limited by law, the Rightsholder is notliable for, and expressly excludes, all liability for loss or damage however and whenever causedto anyone by any use under this Document, whether by You or by anyone else, and whethercaused by any fault on the part of the Rightsholder or not. This exclusion of liability includes, butis not limited to, any special, incidental, consequential, punitive, or exemplary damages. Thisexclusion applies even if the Rightsholder has been advised of the possibility of such damages.5.3 If liability may not be excluded by law, it is limited to actual and direct financial loss to theextent it is caused by proved negligence on the part of the Rightsholder.6.0 General6.1 If any provision of this Document is held to be invalid or unenforceable, that must not affectthe cvalidity or enforceability of the remainder of the terms of this Document.6.2 This Document is the entire agreement between the parties with respect to the Work coveredhere. It replaces any earlier understandings, agreements or representations with respect to theWork not specified here.6.3 This Document does not affect any rights that You or anyone else may independently haveunder any applicable law to make any use of this Work, including (for jurisdictions where thisDocument is a licence) fair dealing, fair use, database exceptions, or any other legallyrecognised limitation or exception to infringement of copyright or other applicable laws.6.4 This Document takes effect in the relevant jurisdiction in which the Document terms aresought to be enforced. If the rights waived or granted under applicable law in the relevantjurisdiction includes additional rights not waived or granted under this Document, theseadditional rights are included in this Document in order to meet the intent of this Document.Source: Retrieved from, September 18, 2011Cook  County  Open  Government  Plan  (rev  9/21/11)   31    
  32. 32. 8. Appendix: What is Open Data?from Open Data, Open City (University of Toronto: September, 2010)WHAT IS OPEN DATA?We live in a knowledge economy. We access, evaluate and compare many kinds of informationevery day, from checking bus schedules to sorting emails by priority. Cities deal with lots ofinformation too, and most of it can be classified as “data,” collections of information generatedand used by people and computers. The availability and use of data by and for the public is anemerging municipal issue as cities realize the many benefits of “opening up” their data.Open data is both a philosophy and a practice. Municipalities collect extensive data about thecity and its residents, and the practice of freely sharing this data online is gaining ground in citiesacross the country and around the world. Vancouver and Washington, D.C. both have officialopen data policies, and many other cities are launching their own open data initiatives. “Data”here means everything from statistics to address lists and recycling schedules, from informationon election results by riding, to the locations of schools or streetlamps. Since such information isimportant for both the governance and understanding of a city, a clear policy on how that data isstored, used, and presented to the public is necessary.The call for open data goes a step further than simply requesting access to the numbers; “opendata” describes data that is digital and flexible, so that it can be shared and integrated intocomputer applications. It must be available in a machine-readable format1, so that it can bedownloaded and manipulated by people who wish to use it. Open data advocates want accessto the “raw” information so that it can be used and reused with other data sets and by anynumber of computer applications. For instance, the city’s water-use statistics2 may be availableas a list in a PDF document, which can be read by people, but which a computer programcannot interpret. If these statistics were in a format that a computer could read, for instance as aspreadsheet of populated columns, one could play with the data, looking for patterns, orcomparing it with other sets. Homeowners worried about their water consumption couldcompare their use with neighbourhood averages, or even be automatically emailed their month-to-month statistics. Such services are but one example of the possibilities of open data forcitizens and the city.In order to realize the potential of a large, well-organized, and accessible collection ofinformation, open data initiatives require planning and commitment. The immediate benefits andlong term potential of open data include more efficient city operations, more interaction betweenthe city and its citizens, a more data-literate citizenry, and the opportunity for entrepreneurs touse city data innovatively for public or proprietary use. Open data promotes democracy, fuelsentrepreneurship and improves efficiencies by repurposing data for many uses.1 Being in “machine readable format” means, as the name suggests, that the data can be recognized and interpreted bya computer. Examples of machine-readable technology range from an old-fashion library punch card to a supermarketbarcode to a cassette tape.2 Cities collect statistics on the volume and frequency of water consumption.OPEN DATA AND CIVIC ENGAGEMENTWhile open data may seem at first glance like something reserved for technology geeks, theintention of the open data movement is the opposite of exclusivity: it aims to foster anunderstanding of government information for the average citizen. While not everyone will makeCook  County  Open  Government  Plan  (rev  9/21/11)   32    
  33. 33. use of the data, it’s important for citizens to know that it’s accurate and available, and thataccessible data is a right, not a privilege. It is also an increasingly important skill for participationin the information and knowledge economy. As Canadian entrepreneur and open governmentactivist David Eaves wrote in a June 10th blog post, historically “we didn’t build libraries for analready literate citizenry. We built libraries to help citizens become literate. Today we build opendata portals not because we have a data or public policy literate citizenry, we build them so thatcitizens may become literate in data, visualization, coding and public policy” (“Learning fromLibraries: The Literacy Challenge of Open Data,” We all need to understandhow data is manipulated to support arguments and ideas. A basic level of statistical awarenessis necessary so that we understand the context of the data presented: we all need to know toask, where did the data come from? Was the author paid to produce it? What are their biases?Can I check that the results are correct?The process of understanding information is often characterized as an upward progression fromdata, to information, to knowledge, and finally to wisdom. Similarly, data becomes morevaluable—more useable—through collection, structuring, and distribution. Cities conductextensive data collection and structuring, but much of the data are not shared, often because itsvalue outside of its original intent is not recognized. Some city data is distributed to us formally:garbage pickup schedules, smog warnings, and public library locations are all data setscollected by the city and presented to the public in some form, usually on a flyer or website. Butthis data is static. For data to be open, it must be flexible and manipulable.Philosophically, the open data movement has grown out of a larger push for governmentopenness. Advocates of open data believe that in a modern democracy, governments shouldshare the data they collect, and that open data is a concrete way to teach and encouragegovernment participation. Accessible data means that citizens can see and evaluate the impactof city policies. Citizens will know where to go to find out how tax dollars are spent, they will beable to calculate the numbers themselves, and compare them to other years, othermunicipalities, or any other metrics that interest them. Our ability to fully engage as citizens isenhanced when we have the ability to access the output of government work. In a countrywhose official motto includes the phrase “good government,” it seems obvious that we shouldbe able to know when our government is being “good.” Richard Poynder’s UK-based blog,“Open and Shut” makes this argument very well. With regard to The Guardian newspaper’slaunch of the “Free Our Data” campaign, he writes:“... [The Guardian] wanted to draw attention to the fact that governments and governmentagencies have been using taxpayer’s money to create vast databases containing highly valuableinformation, and yet have made very little of this information publicly available. Where the datahas been made available access to it has generally been charged for [... and] released underrestrictive copyright licences prohibiting redistribution, and so preventing third parties from usingit to create useful new services. The end result, The Guardian believes, is that the number andvariety of organisations able to make use of the data has been severely curtailed and innovationstifled.”While it can be argued that hoarding data can curtail innovation, it can also be said that sharingtoo much information can cause problems, too. In political environments where every decision iscriticized or ridiculed, civil servants will be understandably reluctant to share the information thatled to their decisions. The challenge for cities creating open data initiatives is to release as muchdata as possible while ensuring legitimate privacy and security concerns are met.OPEN DATA, ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND INNOVATIONA solid commitment to open data would not only benefit Torontonians on principle. Openingupdata sets leads not only to increased accountability and trust but, for the entrepreneurialCook  County  Open  Government  Plan  (rev  9/21/11)   33    
  34. 34. among us, innovation through the development of applications, most often in the form of“mashups,” digital products created from preexisting elements. Programmers and developerscreate mashups by combining two or more technologies or data sources to create a newproduct or service; some of this services are created simply to benefit our fellow citizen, whileothers include an intention of profit. A simple version of a mashup would be a store’s “Is It InStock?” feature, which combines location data and stock data to tell a customer if the productthey want is available nearby. Toronto software developer Mark Headd used data sets onlocation and space availability of child care centres to create a daycare search by postal codeusing texting or Twitter. Mark describes the application as “quite simple, and is still rough inmany ways, but it was completed within several hours and demonstrates how governments thatrelease interesting and valuable information empower developers to build useful things”(“Toronto Opens Government Data,” This year Jeff Aramini, a formerepidemiologist at the Public Health Agency of Canada, developed,a website that tracks product and food recalls using aggregated federal and provincial opendata in combination with media monitoring software. This information is then overlaid on a map,alerting users to recalls in their area. Several iPhone applications have been developed—somefree, some fee-based—to deliver TTC schedule information on demand and in a mobile format.Examples of useful mashups abound and span the spectrum of generic public service tools tohighly specialized proprietary applications. What these programs have in common is theirreliance on flexible, open data.THE IMPORTANCE OF STANDARDIZED OPEN DATAStandardization is an essential, albeit expensive, component of this openness. Standardizationmeans that the data sets can be more easily shared, but it also means that the city will have toinvest dollars to standardize existing and legacy data systems in a more flexible format. Whilethe start-up costs of standardizing data collection are high, both financially and in terms ofhuman resources, over time the benefits to the city are manifold. David Eaves, who advises theCity of Vancouver on the development of their open data policy, argues that data is a strategicasset that cities should be using to help themselves, that the centralization of data will help thecity manage itself more efficiently. An excellent example of using standardization to improveboth efficiency and user experience is Toronto’s 311 service, which integrates city serviceCook  County  Open  Government  Plan  (rev  9/21/11)   34    
  35. 35. responses into a single system, allowing for ease of access and faster response time.The cost of developing systems to standardize, share, and archive data could be sharedbetween cities, who could come together to negotiate with potential vendors of the appropriatetools. An open data policy is a mechanism for cities to “help themselves,” and, in addition, it is atool for cities to learn from each other while encouraging important policy learning opportunities.OPEN DATA PORTALS AT WORKToronto is one of several Canadian cities aiming to publish its data in an open format catalogue,along with Vancouver, Nanaimo, Edmonton, and Ottawa. Most recently, London (Ontario)launched Open Data London and Montreal has announced Montréal Ouvert. The City of Torontolaunched in November 2009. The catalogue offers about thirty datasets, most ofthem static geographic data, including ward, park and neighbourhood boundaries, locations ofplaces of worship, traffic signals and food banks, and some TTC schedules. The sets areavailable in flexible digital formats and some data are automatically updated or available in real-time. The portal’s contents are available under an open license, which means that anyone,anywhere in the world, has the city’s permission to a “world-wide, royalty-free, non-exclusivelicense to use, modify and distribute the datasets in all current and future media formats for anylawful purpose” (City of Toronto Open Data project). Created by local data enthusiasts tosupport Toronto’s open data project, is a collaboration site inviting the open datacommunity to request new data, suggest enhancements, and share in the development.Participation has been low, perhaps due to the limited number of data sets offered in Toronto’sOpen Data catalogue. Additionally, despite the ease with which datasets can be released inmany formats, the catalogue has typically chosen only one format per data set. The cataloguealso uses internal city terminology (“cuts” for excavation work or potholes, “Toronto Centreline”for a set on road markings), terms not always familiar to citizens.Operating since September 2009, Vancouver’s more advanced currentlyoffers over 100 data sets. But it’s not just the number of sets available that is impressive: the cityhas turned the portal itself into an interactive feedback and discussion space, and has built RSSfeeds that aggregate city information such as job postings and bike route detours.Across the pond, acts as a hub, pointing visitors to raw data sets availableon a number of agency websites. Data available includes life expectancy at birth by ward,household waste disposal by borough, and the locations of every polling station for the 2010elections. The portal calls itself a first step, and promises that they are “committed to influencingand cajoling other public sector organisations into releasing their data here too.”( London’s datastore should be a source of inspiration for Toronto’s futureefforts. At the federal level, Canada lags behind both the United States and the United Kingdom.In the US, founded in 2009, has over 270,000 data sets available. With the help of TimBerners-Lee, credited with inventing the World Wide Web, the British government has, “a key part of the Government’s Transparency programme.” The Canadiangovernment has thus far shown less enthusiasm; there is no national open data strategy, andtherefore no central hub for national data sets.3 As the largest city in the country, Toronto hasthe resources to be a leader in government transparency, and to encourage the use of its datafor myriad purposes, championing the value of a digitally literate citizenry.3 Not content to wait for our administrations to take the lead, a few Canadian innovators have attempted to address thegap. Their efforts include, run by Michael Mulley, and, run by David Eaves, which hedescribes as his effort at “showing our government, and Canada, what a federal open data portal could and should looklike.” and are two other websites involved in championing the necessity of open, free data inthe name of democracy and transparency in the information age.POLICY IDEASCook  County  Open  Government  Plan  (rev  9/21/11)   35    
  36. 36. A successful open data initiative needs more than just accessible data to be effective. It requiresformal commitments from the city on a number of fronts, the development of a robustcentralized portal, and enthusiasm from the general population. It also, particularly in the earlyyears, needs a dedicated team with a variety of skill sets, including technophiles, marketers, andthose who can best promote citizen engagement.Cities who make data available and actively market what they are sharing demonstrate theirbelief in the benefits and potential of open data. In order to make open, accessible data setspartof standard operating procedures, cities need to have policies in place that will helpstandardize creation and facilitate pro-active distribution. All city data should be created inshareable formats, regardless of whether it is deemed allowable or worth sharing at thatmoment. Policy should include a written, official commitment to updating data sets, and tocommunicating these updates through a variety of channels. Certain sets, such as publictransportation and election information, should be recognized as being priority sets, with moreregular and formal updates required.Toronto’s open data catalogue has a lot of room to grow, and should be looking to the plethoraof information on the city and its governance already available, and known to be of interest,through All of this data should be housed in the centralized online portal,allowing anyone with an idle curiosity to browse, download, and play with what is already publicinformation on a standard platform. This portal must be designed to protect sensitive data, andto ensure that privacy concerns are addressed, investigated, and dealt with promptly. This willhelp build trust between the specific department overseeing the portal, City of Torontoemployees, and the general public, and encourage the enhancement of the portal’sdevelopment.As important as it is to open up data, it’s equally important for citizens to make use of it. Citiesare unlikely to be convinced of the value of open data unless there’s a community ofenthusiastic users who can demonstrate its value. Every municipality is low on cash andresources, resulting in a focus on efficiency in delivering city services. Open data is a way forcities to create more value for every citizen; citizens benefits from the development of innovativeand useful applications, and the city is viewed as having played a key role in offering value-added services and fuelling entrepreneurship. When cities open up their data, they are initiatinga conversation with the people using the data, and the initiative will succeed as long as bothsides are listening, participating and working towards a common goal.ConclusionsOpen data initiatives work when the host city understands the benefits to both the citizens andto itself, and is willing to reap those benefits by committing to success through investment.When open, accessible data is harnessed by data-savvy citizens to create valuable tools thatserve all kinds of needs, there are many wins: the city has encouraged and satisfiedentrepreneurism; the entrepreneur has found satisfaction in creating a valuable tool, and thecitizen benefits from the tool itself. Open data can enhance the relationship between the city andits citizens by sharing what it collects, and in return the citizens can offer value to the city bytaking the time to create tools the city hasn’t the time or budget to build. Bringing a sense ofcooperation that is necessary for a healthy and progressive future, open data initiatives makecities and their citizens partners in growth and innovation.Source: Martin Prosperity Institute, Open Data, Open City (University of Toronto: September, 2010)Cook  County  Open  Government  Plan  (rev  9/21/11)   36