19 September 2011 ~ 1 Comment

Burlington Open Data Pilot

http://www.flickr.com/photos/batara/4482071468City of Burlington just launched an Open Data pilot, proudly joining the likes of Vancouver, Nanaimo, Toronto, Edmonton and Ottawa. Championed by the city’s Information Technology Services department, this initiative is a solid step towards improving transparency, accountability and citizen engagement.

Earlier in July OpenHalton was involved in helping organize an “Open Data e-Gov Focus Group” and that same month I was invited to speak to council in support of on Open Data initiative spearheaded and presented by Christine Swenor, Director of IT Services. The council was very receptive to the initiative (the full webcast recording is here). Within just 2 months Burlington was able to launch a full pilot, with the following objectives outlined in this memo to council:

  • The goal is to better understand all aspects of open data, including resource requirements and benefits, which will better inform the e-Government Strategy;
  • The pilot is being supported by the Parks & Recreation, Clerks, Legal & IT Services dept’s
  • Parks & related facilities data will be published as data sets for the pilot
  • Other datasets (!) may be added over the duration of the pilot where appropriate and manageable.

Of particular interest is the following quote from the memo:

It has become evident that Open Data is a key component of Open Government and should be addressed within the e-Government Strategy.

Indeed, this is the type of a holistic view that many other cities could benefit from, as they look to refresh their websites or update their citizen services online. Burlington seems to be quite serious about the role of open data in driving better citizen services:

The purpose of Open Data is to enhance transparency and accountability and potentially service delivery.

Well done, Burlington, for recognizing the potential offered by Open Data, and also for championing the movement in the Halton Region!

Critics may point to the Terms of Use issues stemming from re-use of Vancouver License, or that there’s just one dataset (schema seems to be influenced by this Vancouver’s parks listing) or that it contains just point-coordinate data vs. complete park boundaries. However, those are part of a learning process a city is expected to go through as it matures its understanding of open data and refines its strategies for open government.

As I look at the flurry of activities just west in Hamilton, led by our friends at Open Hamilton, I can’t help but think we’re starting to get somewhere with this Open Data thing…. Now we just need to get cranking on building apps from this data to show what’s possible :)

[image from Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/batara/4482071468/ ]