What is Open Data?

Wikipedia defines Open Data as “The rationale behind open government data can be considered as twofold.

  • September2014 - OpenData - r-halfFirst, advocates contend that making government data available to the public in open formats increases government transparency and accountability.
  • Second, open data should enable third parties to leverage the potential of government data through the development of applications and services that address public and private demands.”

One example, in lay terms, imagine all the political donations being readily available to everyone in an Excel formatted file. You didn’t need to submit a request, or drive to town hall, but rather, required access to an unrestricted web page. If you’re proficient with Excel, what information could you derive from that data?

A parallel can be drawn against Open Source software, and how that model has revolutionized the computing ecosystem. The most popular open source products run ecommerce sites of some of the world’s largest online retailers. In all probability, your company is also using Open Source products.

Why is Open Data useful?

To continue quoting Wikipedia, “The best open government applications seek to empower citizens, to help small businesses, or to create value in some other positive, constructive way.”

The massive amounts of data our government have collected is ours. The vast majority of it however is unavailable to us. Understandable for data containing personal or security information, but no longer acceptable for the rest.

Where can I Find the Open Data?

Here are some examples of Canadian sources of Open Data:

Who is using Open data?

Here are five examples of effective uses of public open data which provides citizen enablement (with screen captures of each following – click on image to enlarge or goto source):

  1. The mobile transit app (free) tells shows you the nearest bus stop, scheduled ETA, and map of route. Works with Burlington and Oakville transit. http://thetransitapp.com/
  2. A mobile app (free) which accurately tells you when the next train or bus will arrive (Toronto) http://rocketmanapp.com/
  3.  Chicago’s farmers market locations
  4. During a May 2014 Edmonton Open Data Hackathon, a citizen produced this City of Edmonton budget visualization (infographic). Their Mayor was later quoted “I’ve dealt with seven budgets … (this visualization was) very very helpful for me to understand our budgets through the eyes of a citizen
  5. Geo visualization of who donated to the 2010 Rob Ford campaign

Rocketman appChicago farmers market locations City of Edmonton Budget Visualization .Oakville Kerr Bus line example 140w

Ford 2010 Campaign donations City of Toronto.

Click on images to enlarge or goto source.

Get Started

Imagine leading or being witness to the genesis of some bold new commercial or open source app that brings life changing possibilities?

Eventbrite - Open Data. Open Gov. Shape The Future.

On September 9, 2014, join a intensive highly engaged round-table workshop with your peers. You’re in control. You can share and brainstorm on your challenges, your needs, and your ideas around citizen centric services and apps that require open data. Learn more here, or Register here.  

About the Blogger

Stomphorst Avatar 2014Rick Stomphorst is the President of SearchVelocity, providing recruitment services to technology companies to identify and acquire high-value technology staff. Rick is a technology leader with over 25 years experience with SaaS & on-premise software, large IT professional consulting firms and five software start-ups. He is a cofounder of Silicon Halton. [@StompR]

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