Open data is a philosophy and practice requiring that certain data are made freely available to the public, in machine readable format without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control. Most commonly, Open Data focuses on non-textual material such as geographic information systems (GIS) data. The Open Data movement is gaining momentum worldwide with significant steps being taken by government agencies (at all levels) in Europe and North America.
In the public sphere, the goal of Open Data is to remove barriers to access to information created or managed by government institutions, while respecting privacy and sensitivity concerns. Facilitating access to this information allows entrepreneurs, academics, community groups and others to study communities and develop applications that leverage the data to improve community experience and stimulate economic growth.
The Mayor’s Task Force on eGovernment and City Council and Council have recognized the value and importance of Open Data, and have been key drivers for the City to adapt its policies and practices to embrace this movement.
The City is now taking concrete and measured steps to join the ranks of other Canadian municipalities who have instituted Open Data programs. Corporate Communications and ITS have partnered to create an infrastructure, raise awareness and connect with the public in the development of City of Ottawa’s Open Data initiative. Staff have worked closely with members of the public who have experience with Open Data initiatives and who have expressed an interest in Open Data at the City of Ottawa to inform and validate the City’s approach and vision.
The first major Open Data milestone is the creation of a beta website that will make available, in machine readable format, approximately 15-20 data sets. The initial release focuses on Parks and Recreation information, including (but not limited to) recreational facilities, skating rinks and parks data that is already available on ottawa.ca. Presenting this information in machine readable format effectively “unlocks” the data allowing it to more easily be repurposed for mapping or other applications.