GitHub recently released a landing page to help governmental organizations get their data into the GitHub cloud. I am very excited to see more government organizations use GitHub to share, collaborate, and publish our data.
Here’s an example of the “open” data that is available in my neck of the woods. Having crime data published in a PDF, grouped by area of city (so you have to collate multiple PDFs to see the entire city) is simply pathetic. You cannot use this data other than seeing it with your eyes. So much room for improvement!
Posting public data in machine-readable formats has been proven beneficial. Brett Goldstein, former Chief Data and Information Officer for the City of Chicago, writes on his website about sweeparound.us, a web app born because Chicago street sweeping data is available:
The sweeparound.us story exemplifies a couple key lessons that continue to hold true. First, we, as a city, needed to learn to produce data in machine-readable formats as part of our standard business practices. Second, a variety of communities demonstrated an enormous appetite for government data, including civic developers, researchers, and journalists. We saw the emergence of the civic developer community both in the philanthropic and for-profit models. Places like Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago had been struggling for years to extract administrative data for the purpose of research. Open data programs make it substantially easier, removing the need to negotiate non-disclosure or other types of agreements. Open data also has also stimulated new research. A Ph.D. candidate tweeted her gratitude at finally being able to finish her dissertation, and more traditional organizations have now embarked in multi-year studies, based on what has been released on the City of Chicago’s data portal.
University City, let’s start posting this data on GitHub! Post it in JSON, XML, or even CSV. It will allow us – the citizens that you represent – to actually use this data and maybe make our cities, states, and nations a better place for us all.