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The City of Madison regularly collects data on many government processes. If you review a list of every city agency, this should not come as a surprise. The police department collects information on crime patterns and response times, the city assessor records assessment values of parcels; the housing operations division tracks data on public housing options, and so on.Open Data
is concept that data created by government employees should be available to the public, free to use, reuse and distribute without worrying about copyright or restrictions.
The concept expresses that every citizen has a right to data collected by the city. Often government employees, computers workstations, and IT servers are all paid by levied tax dollars
. Similar to open record requests, the theory goes that every Madisonian
has a right to this information. Moreover, technical advances with web mosaics, bandwidth, and the programming standards have evolved in a manner that the public can now access for relatively little or no cost to taxpayers.
On Tuesday, I, alongside Alder Clear, Rhodes-Conway, and Schmidt, have introduced Wisconsin's first Open Data ordinance
. Following the 8 General Principles of Open Data
, the ordinance will codify our city's procedure for collecting data from city agencies and distribute it to the public via a new web portal. The policy also outlines protections for sensitive data, like information relating to active police investigations.
While purpose of this ordinance might not resonate with the average Madisonian
, computers developers and data analysts should be excited about this new ordinance. Often this data is used by computer developers to create free civic applications
for websites and smart phones.
In Madison, we have already seen the first civic applications. UW students created one of the mobile applications to track the GPS position of buses
, providing real-time information on arrivals. Another application uses bus data has allowed third parties to create a free service to allow residents and visitors send an SMS message
to find out when the next bus will arrive.
Both applications are free for the public. These are the types of benefits the community will receive through a comprehensive open data policy.
Unleashing this information usually holds a tremendous benefit to improving government transparency, enhancing government efficiency, and fostering civic entrepreneurship. These benefits are all relatively inexpensive, and spurred by releasing data employees already collect.
Open data accelerates the creation applications using emerging technologies. Through active participation by members of the public and the development community, open data will revolutionize how residents interact with our government, provide new insight how our city government works, encourage active participation in the government process, uncover efficiencies, and cultivate new economic and civic entrepreneurship.
If you are interested in learning more about civic entrepreneurship in Madison, check out CityCamp
serves on the Madison City Council. He is also the Vice President of Hardin Design & Development
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of WTN Media, LLC. WTN accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.