GeoWorld January 2012

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MUNICIPALMATTERS W Make Open Data Happen elcome to GeoWorld's newest column, which will feature interesting topics that somehow relate to geotechnology. That's not very specific, but my intent is to pick an interesting topic and write about it—not necessarily from a Canadian or Vancouver perspective, and not always the same type of issue. That said, Vancouver is a relatively advanced municipal government in many of the ways it utilizes and thinks about geotechnology, and that experience will generate some interesting topics to discuss. So on with the show. BY JONATHAN MARK A New Dawn for Open Data This topic of this column is "Open Data," a term applied to the most recent way in which governments make their data available to the public. Many governments have been involved in making data available to the public for a long time, but in a very different way. Depending on applicable legislation, cities may have sold data, licensed data, given it away subject to court orders or developed applications (e.g., Web mapping) in which data could be seen but not accessed. In most of these cases, the government didn't want to give the data away, or it wanted to make money from disseminating them. Why is Open Data a geospatial topic? Public requests for geospatial data have been around for a long time, in many cases well before requests for nonspatial data hit governments. Vancouver has been receiving requests for spatial data since at least 1995. As a result, we've thought about the issues and how to accommodate such requests. GIS Open Data are natural extensions of the Web GIS sites many people have put so much energy into through the years. Jonathan Mark is the senior manager, GIS and CADD Services, for the city of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; e-mail: jonathan.mark@ 12 Encouraging Use The Open Data movement of the last three to four years represents a new perspective on making data available to the public. Open Data means making data available in a way that encourages, rather than simply permitting, its use. The data may be used to provide services that the government might not otherwise provide. GEO W ORLD /JANUAR Y 2O12 Open Data also means making governments more transparent by allowing others to do their own analysis and come to their own conclusions about what the government is doing. And Open Data means bringing more people into the problem-solving arena by giving them the data to examine in their own way. To state the obvious, when Open Data are made available, the provider loses control over what analyses are done, whether they're done correctly and what conclusions are reached. So moving to Open Data requires a significant shift in thinking. I need to be clear that, at a minimum, this means providing frequently updated sets of raw data in formats such as DWG, SHP, KML, XLS, CSV, XML, etc. I'm not talking about putting PDF and Word docu- ments on the Web; it's OK to do that, but Open Data means much more. The data must be usable and (ideally) relatively or totally unfiltered (except where issues of privacy and security dictate otherwise). Vancouver's Lessons There are far too many Open Data sites to men- tion, but some of the earlier and larger sites in the United States include the federal government; San Francisco; Washington, D.C.; and New York City. In Canada, Vancouver was one of the first, but Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton and Calgary now are big players, as are many other smaller and medium-sized cities. In Vancouver, the Open Data process started in May 2009 as a result of City Council passing the Open3 Motion promoting open data, open standards and open-source software. Each jurisdiction will go through its own process for implementing an Open Data policy, but it may be helpful to provide an overview of the way Vancouver went about it to identify some of the issues involved: Data policy is being adopted. Understanding the objectives makes it easier to design processes. Data community of application developers. You may not know if such a community exists, but, if it does, take advantage of it. Find out what types of applica- tions they think would be useful and what types of data they need. the data. In Vancouver's case, we identified citizens, application developers, commercial users, academics and researchers, and other government entities. internally developed or whether a hosted solution will be used. The city developed its own site, but it has examined some potential hosting solutions. get the ball rolling. In Vancouver's case, the early Imagery/LIDAR Special Issue

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