Civic Awesome: Open Data in the News for the Week of May 11, 2015

May 15, 2015 5:00 am PST | Data as a Service

From potholes to parking, this week’s Civic Awesome shows us how open data provides welcome solutions to the inconveniences and frustrations of public life. Also this week: transparency takes off in California and the Caribbean, plus we learn the word “metabolomics.”

Three Big Benefits of Open Data

Citizens in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, can turn to open data when tight budgets constrain government services, reports Geoff Bartlett in CBCNews. First, anyone can take government data and turn it into an app to share advisories and other vital information with the general public – no more waiting on government to deliver. Second, he notes, “We can all be the eyes and ears of government,” reporting potholes and traffic accidents, reducing the load on inspectors. Third, everyone can evaluate problems and innovate for solutions. “This crowdsourcing approach is cheaper, faster, and perhaps even more effective than relying on politicians and bureaucrats to get things done,” states Bartlett.

AppyParking Drives Transparency

After Dan Hubert developed AppyParking, an app to give London motorists, “all the information they need about available parking spaces anywhere,” he met with local governments’ refusals to share data on parking rules. Hubert’s experience reveals three obstacles to local governments’ approach to open data, states Eddie Copeland in The first, no guaranteed supply, comes with financial reality: Opening government datasets costs staff time as well as potential investments in new software. The second hurdle comes from opening data via one-off standards. “This makes it incredibly hard for potential developers to create a viable business model,” explains Copeland. Last, poor data quality bars innovation from developers who lack the resources needed to clean datasets.

L.A. County Goes Open

The public now gets free online access to millions of government records in L.A. County, including, “crime statistics, county employee salary and benefits information, restaurant inspections, and budget and election data,” reports Sarah Favot in the Los Angeles Daily News. County of Los Angeles Open Data also provides tax records for the county’s 2.3 million properties. Powered by Socrata, the portal, “represents a tangible milestone in the county’s determination to provide new levels of transparency and accountability in a digital age,” Favot quotes Interim Chief Executive Officer Sachi A. Hamai.

Trinidad & Tobago: Ready, Set, Go!

“The World Bank Group has confirmed that Trinidad & Tobago is open data ready, with strong high-level commitment to open government,” reports the Guardian. The country’s strong showing in the National Open Data Readiness Assessment included high marks in technology and skills infrastructure. The news dovetails with the government’s plan to help boost economic growth with nationwide high speed broadband access. The efforts factor into the National ICT Plan 2014-2018, smarTT, “aimed at transforming the country into a more diversified, information and knowledge-driven economy.”

Open Data at the Molecular Level

As Scott Edmunds explains in, “Metabolomics involves the detection and quantification of small molecules (metabolites) in living organisms using mass spectrometers.” What does this have to do with open data? Several scientific institutes aim to share their research on metabolomics more easily and openly, with the ultimate goal of increasing collaboration and shared knowledge in the field of molecular biology. Edmunds notes, “With MetaboLights soon to publish its 100th public dataset, it is encouraging to see the growing volumes of mass spectrometry data in the public domain.”

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