GeoWorld July 2012

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What Can You Do with Open Data? MUNICIPALMATTERS T he January 2012 "Municipal Matters" column focused on Open Data, describing what it is (and isn't) as well as a number of issues that come up when getting into the Open Data business (see "Make Open Data Happen," GeoWorld, page 12). Although it's easy to make data available, it's harder to do it right and make them useful to potential consumers. This column's focus is on those BY JONATHAN MARK consumers and what they're doing with the data that Vancouver and other governments are making available via Open Data portals. Knowing how Open Data is being used makes it easier to build a business case for allocating resources and continuing to expand and support the Open Data portal. It also makes it easier to provide data in useful ways to consumers. That said, the city of Vancouver chose to neither require data consumers to tell us what they do nor provide data attribution. As a result, we often don't know what's being done with the data. It's then more Who's Using? So who are the users of Open Data? Several con- stituencies have potentially different requirements, including the following: research purposes. reasons to answer questions such as "Where are the local schools?" Jonathan Mark is the senior manager, GIS and CADD Services, for the city of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; e-mail: jonathan.mark@ 12 perhaps by adding value and reselling them. shared. data. Some of these groups weren't served at all, some were served well by the city prior to Open Data, while others now can be served with much less effort by city staff because of the self-serve data portal. GEO W ORLD / JU L Y 2O12 What Are They Doing? In the interests of generating ideas about how Open Data can be used, the balance of this column focuses on what some users are doing with the data they're downloading. I don't know if these uses are representative, because the city doesn't ask users what they do with the data—they've just come to our attention one way or another. This section draws heavily from a presentation my colleague, Darrin Fast, gave at the 2011 GeoTec Conference. developed using Vancouver data was ReCollect (; formerly This applica- tion gives residents the opportunity to be reminded when their garbage and recycling will be collected. This application uses municipal garbage-collection schedules as a starting place. of shoreline. Given concerns about global climate change and resulting sea-level changes, it was interesting to see a study done on the impacts of sea-level changes on Vancouver (www.btaworks. com/2011/07/14/sea-level-rise-will-mark-a- sea-change-for-vancouver-coastline) that was performed using contour data available through Open Data. Another study by the same author uses Open Data to analyze the distribution of Although not the only motivation for pursuing Open Data, providing applications for public benefit is a primary motivation. By seeing examples of what others have done, it's easier to develop strategies that encourage application developers to do more.

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