City governments are embracing open data, but major challenges--such as putting paper records in a digital format and issues of quality control--abound.
Albany’s Pardo credits the Obama administration for making open data a priority. Boston’s Oates says that while open data is an important government strategy, it’s not about the data but the opportunities generated. To that end, Boston has created an Office of New Urban Mechanics that is chartered to pursue innovative projects based on city-owned data.
“We want to publish data sets that matter,” says Oates. “We want to create real value for researchers, businesses or any watchdog agencies that want to monitor key performance indicators.”
Edmonton’s Moore says the city’s primary motive is not to create a digital economy around its data, but that Edmonton wants to support different ecosystems that will evolve based on its data.
Ultimately, Moore and Oates believe open data is about engaging and empowering citizens. The thing to be careful about, says Oates, is ensuring that the input being provided by digitally literate citizens doesn’t end up creating a digital divide in which the goals of one constituency start to monopolize city services that the expense of other constituencies.
“It’s a different form of the digital divide,” says Oates. “But one of the good things about big data is that it will help us not only figure out who is communicating with us, but just as importantly who is not.”