NYC Uses Open Data for Public Good

October 16, 2013 2:00 pm PST | Effective Governing

By Tim Cashman


Last month, we wrote about how New York City is raising the standard for open data innovation. Their outstanding work continues to receive accolades, most recently across the Atlantic from one of the world’s leading news sources.

New York City was recently featured on the iconic BBC radio program “Today,” which reaches an average of six million listeners every week. In the segment, BBC North America correspondent Jonny Dymond introduces New York’s revolutionary use of open data for public good in this way:

From every place in New York, information is pouring out—out of the parking meters, down the
sides of the skyscrapers, in great waves down the broad avenues…the data of New York is
gathered by the city for the people.

In fact, the Big Apple’s redesigned NYC Open Data Portal, launched in September, added 200 new datasets to the site to bring the total to more than 1,100. The revamped portal boasts a number of other improvements, including responsive design to provide a high-fidelity mobile experience, and the organization of datasets into categories for easier browsing. You can read all about these and other enhancements here.

Putting Open Data to Work

The BBC’s report emphasizes how, every day, government departments throughout New York City churn through terabytes of data—putting it to use to make public services work better. One example is how the city’s fire department (FDNY) uses data to conduct building inspections in a more efficient, targeted way. FDNY firefighters typically inspect 50,000 buildings each year. Now, thanks to better sharing of data, they’re able to prioritize inspections based on objective risk criteria, such as a building’s height and age and the construction material used.

New York City is also playing a leading role in the open data revolution by making the public data it collects easily available to civic-developers and businesses. In New York, and in other cities like San Francisco and Chicago, tech entrepreneurs enthusiastically merge data from public and private sources to create apps that give consumers current, neighborhood-level information on everything from crime to bus schedules.

The best revolutions change the way we see the world, and New York City’s bold approach to transparency and data-driven decision making has caught the world’s attention.

Additional Resources:
Listen to the full BBC Today segment on New York City’s open data program here. The story starts at the 33:10 mark.

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