Open Data is Transforming Governments - and the Areas They Serve [July 11, 2014]
By Tim Marsh
Austin, Honolulu, Chicago, and Los Angeles are all very different in terms of geography, climate, and population. But there’s one thing that each of these cities has in common: Each is a member of the growing list of American cities with open data policies.
These areas, along with others, have set forth mandates that require government data to be open and available to citizens. Many cities have used open source technology to build portals that provide easy access to a wide swath of data from information about city finances to maps of buildings and greenways. Others are benefitting from civic organizations like OpenOakland, which is striving to provide Oakland, Calif., residents with access to a variety of data, including information on city budgets, public meetings and more.
This commitment to open data is transforming governments — but, more importantly, it’s also transforming the areas they serve.
Governments Armed with Agility
Open data further pronounces the need for agility. Agencies must be able to store large amounts of data, but they must also be able to make that data available in near real-time. For example, zoning maps must be kept up-to-date and readily available so that prospective developers have the information they need when they need it. Likewise, citizens may wish to have access to the previous day’s police reports or current information pertaining to voting districts, which can often change. This does not take into account the fact that, since citizens now have access to government data, they also have the ability to request changes to it at their leisure.