Civic Awesome: Open Data in the News for the Week of May 25, 2015
Whether it’s traffic in tropical paradise or marginalized communities in New York City, open data keeps on improving the world and bringing people together. Over in the UK — top ranked on the planet for open data — some still see room for improvement. Also: Socrata wishes a huge Happy Birthday to Data.gov!
Traffic on volcanic islands poses a big challenge: There aren’t a lot of back roads for motorists to take, or alternate routes for government to develop. Energy Excelerator, a Hawaii nonprofit focused on solving the world’s energy problems, tackled Honolulu’s congestion with its Reboot the Commute event, reports Jason Ubay in Pacific Business News. Open data from the City and County of Honolulu, including TheBus public transit system, helped propel innovation in three event categories: transportation, efficiency, and alternate modes of travel. Winners received $1,000 each as well as consultation and promotional assistance for their work.
Since its May 2009 birth with a then-impressive 47 datasets, Data.gov has experienced fantastic growth. With nationwide participation from over 80 federal agencies and subagencies, Data.gov now publishes over 130,000 datasets. Jasamyn Roberts, writing for the GSA Blog, notes the phenomenal influence of top-down leadership on open government: “Since the landmark 2013 Executive Order, which made federal data open and machine-readable by default, we have added over 50,000 datasets.” Roberts also highlights the portal’s innovative transformation over the last year, “from a central metadata catalog (to which agencies submitted datasets one-by-one) to a data harvesting hub.”
The City of New York broke new ground by posting recent special election results, “in a machine-readable format that is easier for researchers and journalists to analyze,” explains Miranda Neubauer in CityNewYork.com. The move grew out of an April 2015 meeting of government and advocacy groups. Cathy Gray, First Vice President of the League of Women Voters of NYC, explained the group’s collective goal to use the data, “to target the lowest voter-turnout election districts for voter education outreach.” Support from officials was broad and enthusiastic, including from Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the Board of Elections. Neubauer quotes Ryan as asserting the progress, “was not only reasonable, but in my opinion, required as further compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.”
All UK public and private sector Chief Information Officers (CIOs) need to board the open data train, says Pat Brans in CIO.co.uk. Brans drives the point home by quoting the World Wide Web Foundation on the need for open data in Africa: “It’s to beat corruption, to spark innovation, and to transform government services.” Brans says just as in Africa, the UK, “can better scrutinize our elected officials,” with open data, spark innovation in the private sector, and give citizens a much-needed break by no longer requiring them to provide, “the same information about themselves to several different government agencies, because those agencies will be sharing information.” Brans calls out “legal pitfalls and other snags,” and emphasizes government’s need to avoid the dangers of open data as well as the chance to seize its benefits.