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Transparent governments are those that offer citizens opportunities to participate in the decision making process and to ask questions about what government is doing, how it is doing it, and how effectively it is achieving its stated goals.
Cities are data intensive entities. The direct and indirect output of many city government activities is data, and access to the data a city produces can provide valuable insights into how a city operates, how policies get made and how effective those policies are implemented.
Publishing the data produced by city departments in an open format is a critical component of any transparency initiative, and establishing formal practices for making more of the data generated by cities available to the public is a fundamental milestone on the road to open and transparent government.
In addition, open data is a key ingredient in the development of solutions that empower citizens to make better decisions. Publishing data on education, crime, public health, transit, water quality, parks and recreation and other areas creates an environment conducive to more informed decisions by people that live in, work in or visit a city.
To enhance the transparency of Philadelphia City Government, the City of Philadelphia proposed to undertake the following actions in the first year of a formal open data effort:
- The Chief Innovation Officer and Chief Data Officer will designate an official City Data Portal to act as the central location for posting information on city data that is available for use by outside consumers.
Year 1 Outcome: As discussed previously in this plan, the City has designated the community built and maintained OpenDataPhilly.org site as it’s official open data directory. City departments and offices are directed to list all new open data releases on this site.
- The Chief Data Officer will oversee the broader release of data currently powering the City’s Mapping Portal, including data on licenses and property inspections, violations, zoning, vacant properties and the location of important community assets like polling locations, parks, etc.
Year 1 Outcome: Over the past year, a large number of geospatial APIs have been released and are actively being used to create new visualizations and apps. The current list of available APIs is listed here.
- City departments and agencies will create an inventory of data that is “public information” under their stewardship that might be made available to the public through the official City Data Portal.
Year 1 Outcome: This objective was partially realized with the development of an Open Data Pipeline detailing the planned release dates for city data. The pipeline lists a number of data sets that are no currently public but that are actively being worked on for future release. However, this list is not an exhaustive list of all data that departments maintain that could be released to the public as open data.
- City departments and agencies will consult with the Chief Innovation Officer and Chief Data Officer to identify from these compiled inventories “high value“ data sets for release to outside consumers through the official City Data Portal. Specific emphasis will be given to data sets with the potential for broad impact among data consumers and external partners.
Year 1 Outcome: The Open Data Pipeline discussed above, while not a comprehensive list of available public data, is an excellent inventory of high value data sets - defined as those most often requested - because of the manner in which it was compiled. This list was aggregated from a variety of sources - internal discussions with data producers, suggestions from external data users, nominations in the Open Data Philly site, entries in the Open Data Race, comments in the City’s Open Data Forum, etc.
- The Chief Data Officer will develop a series of standard processes and practices for all City departments and agencies to identify, review, publish and maintain open data sets for external consumers.
Year 1 Outcome: The City of Philadelphia has published an Open Data Guidebook for city agencies, detailing the steps required to identify data for release and the manage the release through the engagement process with outside users. However, the process outlined in this guidebook needs to incorporate more specific standards for departments to follow when identifying data for release (e.g., common naming conventions for data elements, standard units of measurement, etc.), including soliciting public feedback to identify new candidates for release.
- The Chief Innovation Officer and Chief Data Officer will identify opportunities to partner with other public sector data producers serving Philadelphia and establish mechanisms for sharing best practices around the release of open data.
Year 1 Outcome: This objective was accomplished under the auspices of the Open Data Working Group, which has grown to include membership from SEPTA, the School District of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Parking Authority and the Philadelphia Gas Works. The Working Group will serve as a forum for these different entities serving the City of Philadelphia to work together, collaborate on strategies to address shared problems and share data.