Civic Awesome: Open Data In The News for July 18, 2014
Cue the teletype sound effects! It’s time for Civic Awesome to span the globe and bring you the most exciting stories on open data, government transparency, and civic transformation. This week, we’ve got you covered from the EU to DC to NYC and AU (that’s Australia.)
Let’s start in DC, where Monday, US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker announced the Department would hire its first Chief Data Officer. That’s just part of its new open data plan, which also includes the launch of a developer portal, making it easier to find and use Commerce Department data, as well as establishing a data advisory council comprised of private sector leaders.
In another win for open data, the European Union (EU) published guidelines to help its Member States provide access to open data regarding weather, transportation, property assets, energy consumption, economic indicators, and business registrations, among others. According to an EU vice president, these guidelines “will help all of us benefit from the wealth of information public bodies hold…[leading] to many new businesses and convenient services.”
For many of us, the issue of net neutrality is not very new. But, ever since John Oliver caused the topic to go viral, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been hearing a serious earful, so much so the commission’s servers have crashed several times since Oliver’s June 1st screed. Just what kind of comment volume do you need to crash the FCC’s servers? Well, the FCC tells us as it graphed and made available in CSV form, data on the comments its received about what the Commission calls the Open Internet Proceeding.
Down under, the government is opening data, too. On Tuesday, Australia rolled out its National Map Open Data Initiative providing a single, browsable map of the government’s geospatial data sets. From the map, which leverages satellite imagery, users can extract data related to “land, water, infrastructure, broadband access, boundaries and population, with more to come.” It is fun and easy to play with, so check it out.
Staying on the topic of “maps that are cool,” Socrata’s own, Chris Whong created a visualization of a day in the life of a NYC taxi. The transfixing map (you can’t believe how much down time there is for a cab driver in Manhattan) caught the eye of some folks at FiveThirtyEight, who interviewed Chris about how he collected the data for the map and built it. In a great moment, Whong admits he didn’t totally know how to code for this type of project, but found help online. As I’ve often heard Chris say, (although not in the article, per se) “If you can’t figure out how to build something, you’re not Googling hard enough.”
In other civic hacking news, Ed Summers launched @CongressEdits, a bot which tweets changes to your Congressperson’s Wikipedia entries (assuming they were made from a congressional IP address.) The goal of the project is to help break down the wall that’s grown between the public and politicians with their PR teams. It’s not gotcha-style journalism, Summers says, it’s a move toward greater transparency and understanding.