Civic Awesome: Open Data in the News for the Week of March 2nd, 2015

March 6, 2015 9:04 am PST | Data as a Service

This week’s roundup circles the globe, from the expansion of public access to government data in Australia to the beginnings of an open data movement in Namibia. Open data’s traveling across government functions, too, including transit in Silicon Valley and water usage in drought-conscious Texas.

Western Australia Leaps Ahead

With a new strategy of “open by default,” Western Australia has raised its open data standards. Using feedback scheduled to finalize on March 6, the state’s new blueprint of access to government information includes automatic open release of new datasets, unless access must be restricted due to privacy, security, or similar concerns. The new open data initiative will be administered by Landgate, the government authority that manages the state’s GIS and related information. In announcing the effort, Western Australia championed the expected civic benefits, noting, “Opening access to data supports public sector efficiencies and savings.”

Open Data? It’s a “No Brainer”

St. Catherine’s, ON, joined the open data movement, as reported by Grant LaFleche in In a recent city council meeting, examples of how open data helps small businesses and the local economy were shared, including how something as simple as easily accessed bus stop information can increase the survival rates of neighborhood coffee shops. St. Catherine’s is starting off with a task force to determine how to open up their municipal data, and LaFleche hoped in turn the public, “may start demanding better levels of transparency,” to get more people involved in democracy.

Living Lab for Transit Data

Nuria Fernandez, General Manager and CEO of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Agency, met with tech enthusiasts, government officials, and journalists to celebrate the opening of the VTA Innovation Center. Not only will the center manage transit for the county, it’ll also operate an open data portal. Teaming with tech startups, hackers, and academics across Silicon Valley, center staff plan to make the region’s transit system more responsive to rider needs, including real-time routing of buses using geospatial data and mapping tools. Stay tuned in June, when the center’s Hack My Ride 2015 will be paired with an open data app challenge.

Namibia Holds First Hackathon

Embracing the international open data movement, Namibia made its mark with a weekend hackathon that brought developers and others together to share their ideas for open source applications. Sponsored by South African Innovation Support (SAIS) and the Namibia Business Innovation Institute, the Namibia Statistics Agency and 1 Billion Africa, the event provided a terrific example of how industry, government, and non-profit organizations can come together with open data enthusiasts to break new ground. Silas Newaka of SAIS promised regular events to follow, declaring, “We believe that this is just the beginning of the open data movement.” Organizers hope leveraging open data opportunities will boost Namibia socially and economically.

Saving Water with Open Data

Advanced metering infrastructure, or AMI, may soon spread across the neighborhoods of Wichita Falls, TX. Equipped with two-way signal-emitting radios, AMI systems enable customers to access their own data on water usage via a customer portal. This lets citizens detect leaks or other high-usage events, before the bill comes 30 days later, potentially providing major costs savings to the public as well as lightening the workload of city water employees. While the AMI price tag is hefty – at $17 million to $20 million for a city the size of Wichita Falls – officials believe the potential long-term savings to the City, and to the water-using public, could pay off in the long run.

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