Open Raleigh Prioritizes Data as an Asset

March 17, 2014 12:22 pm PST | Data as a Service, Effective Governing

By Jason Hare, Open Data Program Manager, City of Raleigh



Open data can create direct and measurable impacts on public sector agencies that choose to participate. The benefit of creating data infrastructure as a public asset is enhanced through civic engagement and a well-planned data strategy.

Open Raleigh has experienced exponential growth in citizen engagement during the first three months. Site visitors accessed 300,000 page views and over 4.7 million records on Raleigh’s Open Data Portal from March 15 to December 11. How did Raleigh achieve these numbers? What will Open Raleigh do in 2014?

Open Raleigh: 2012-2013

The City of Raleigh has a long history of open, collaborative government by engaging with citizens to provide a high level of customer service. In February 2012, the Raleigh City Council unanimously adopted an Open Source Resolution. This was the first of many steps in a plan designed to make it easier to get information and interact with city government. Raleigh is committed to an open source strategy that highlights transparency, collaboration, and improved access to local government information and data.

Since the resolution was passed, City staff has engaged with citizen groups, youth development programs, entrepreneurs, and businesses to create an open data roadmap. The open data roadmap was created as a living document under the guiding principles of availability and access, reuse and redistribution, and universal participation. The open data roadmap moves the City forward in creating a set of open data policies. These policies will be developed in an open and transparent way.

On March 15, 2013, Raleigh published its open data catalog. The open data catalog allows access to city data sets in open and standard ways for tech savvy and non-technical users.

The City of Raleigh is a partner in the open government community and strives to become a worldwide model for an open source city. The City of Raleigh embodies a collaborative regional approach to open data initiatives. Data interoperability is vital for the area municipalities that share an economy and innovative resources from Research Triangle Park and three research universities. Through the Open Raleigh initiative, the City strives to develop opportunities for economic development, commerce, increased investment, and civic engagement.

Open Data as Civic Innovation Opportunity

Open Raleigh and transparency are about more than sharing datasets. Open Raleigh is a shared collaborative model of governance between citizens and the City of Raleigh government. Open Raleigh seeks to narrate the story of the city through the transformation of data into relevant information.

The City of Raleigh’s Open Source Resolution committed the City to creating a common and secure data-sharing infrastructure based on a suite of agreed upon, open standards. The Open Raleigh initiative required the City to implement a cross-departmental data strategy. This internal strategy focuses primarily on the opportunity to harness data to redesign and improve public service information, transparency, and transactions. The Open Raleigh initiative must align with the Raleigh City Council’s mission, the organization’s business objectives, and the Information Technology strategic plan.

Open Raleigh in Operation Today

The City of Raleigh is in the process of publishing all data sets that comply with the Open Knowledge Foundation and the Open Data Institute Open Government Data Definition. These datasets will be available in a central repository for analysis without license and without restriction on use. The beta release of the open data portal uses the Socrata “software as a service” (SaaS) solution, to publish datasets.

The concept of data as infrastructure is what the open data initiative hinges upon. Like a physical asset, the City’s data assets are infrastructure. Data assets can be merged, analyzed, and compiled by anyone. Citizens and businesses can create information and economic opportunities from the City’s data infrastructure.

Raleigh is a regional open data leader. Through the Open Raleigh initiative, the City is sharing its policies, schemas, and philosophy of data as infrastructure with city and county neighbors. The Town of Cary, the Town of Morrisville, Wake County, Durham County, and the City of Durham are all considering or have passed open data resolutions based on the work of Open Raleigh. This cooperation is part of the Open Raleigh philosophy of regionalism as outlined in the Raleigh’s long-range vision for open data. This philosophy is unique among open data initiatives in the United States. Regionalism, as an open data best practice, is now becoming part of the national conversation through Raleigh’s partnerships.

Raleigh is enabling transparency and openness as a process, starting with open data and progressing through open services to open government. Open government is a process rather than an outcome. Open Raleigh is under development and will continue to evolve with experience and public input. A primary objective is a framework that supports a culture of openness and transparency and leads to an open government process.

The Open Raleigh initiative currently focuses on:

  • Building and managing the project team and working with internal and external to refine the final project scope
  • Creating an open data governance structure that includes development and engagement of an oversight committee and steering committee
  • Completing an inventory and release timeline for additional datasetsSubmitting an open data policy framework to the Open Data Steering Committee
  • Making our code and policies open source for the open data community

Open Raleigh delivers value to Raleigh citizens by:

  • Enhancing transparency
  • Enabling participation
  • Providing improved insight into government services
  • Sharing key performance indicators and allowing collaboration on policies and processes
  • Citizens engage with the City in a positive productive manner and the City can benefit from subject matter expert citizen participation.
  • The open data portal provides economic benefits in terms of local and regional companies developing mobile and web based applications that use this data.
  • Economic development is stimulated by making data available at no cost or low cost to business interests and civic advocates.Indirect economic benefits include attracting businesses due to enhanced transparency.
  • The Open Raleigh initiative includes regional municipalities and partners, further enhancing the value to surrounding communities, citizens and businesses.


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