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There are an article in The Gazette (which I shall put after this post) that speaks about Montreal embracing open data.


Also, anybody every been to Ottawa, Quebec? lol


How Open Data Initiatives Can Improve City Life


by Aliza Sherman


Major city governments across North America are looking for ways to share civic data — which normally resides behind secure firewalls — with private developers who can leverage it to serve city residents via web and mobile apps. Cities can spend on average between $20,000 and $50,000 — even as much as $100,000 — to cover the costs of opening data, but that’s a small price to pay when you consider how much is needed to develop a custom application that might not be nearly as useful.


Here are a few examples of initiatives that are striving to make city governments more efficient and transparent through open data.



1. Apps4Ottawa – Ottawa, Quebec


Careful to adhere to security and privacy regulations for their open data program, the City of Ottawa started sharing data in several areas: geo-spatial (roadways, parks, runways, rivers, and ward boundaries); recreation facilities; event planning; civic elections data; and transit, including schedules. Other data the city is pursuing includes tree inventory, collections schedules for garbage, recycling and compost, and bike and foot paths.


Ottawa aligned their first open data contest, Apps4Ottawa, with the school year (September 2010 to January 2011 ) to involve colleges and universities as well as residents and local industry. Categories for the contest included “Having Fun in Ottawa,” “Getting Around,” “Green Environment/Sustainability,” “Community Building,” and “Economic Development.” The winner is scheduled to be announced later this evening.


Guy Michaud, chief information officer for the City of Ottawa, said their open data efforts have already spurred economic development and is meant to be good for local entrepreneurs. The city receives no revenue through the apps, and the developers can sell what they create. In turn, Ottawa residents get improved services from applications that are created, with better access to city data and more user-friendly formats and platforms.



2. CivicApps.org – Portland, Oregon


After tracking Vivek Kundra’s efforts at the federal level with data.gov, Portland, Oregon launched CivicApps.org, a project initiated out of the mayor’s office to bring a more localized approach to the open data movement. Skip Newberry, economic policy advisor to the mayor, say that the project’s main objective is to improve connections and the flow of information between local government and its constituents, as well as between city bureaus. To call attention to the release of public data, they also launched an app design contest, highlighting the tech talent in Portland’s software community.


According to Rick Nixon, program manager for the Bureau of Technology’s Open Data Initiative for the city of Portland, CivicApps.org took a more regional approach to cover the multiple layers of local government: County, Metro, TriMet, and the City of Portland, all of which collect and maintain various kinds of public data. Data sets released include regional crime, transit, infrastructure (i.e. public works), and economic development programs. Additional projects, such as the PDX API, have been launched in order to make the raw data from CivicApps more useful to developers.


In addition to developer-specific apps, a number of transit related apps — bike, train, bus, mixed modes — were also developed. A very popular and established transit app, PDXBus, was re-released as open source under the rules of the CivicApps contest. Other popular apps helped provide residents greater awareness of their surroundings such as where to find heritage trees, where to find urban edibles, and where to locate each other during disaster relief efforts.



3. CityWide Data Warehouse – Washington, DC


For years, the District of Columbia provided public access to city operational data via the Internet. In keeping with the mayor’s promise to be transparent, the program CityWide Data Warehouse was launched, and provides citizens with access to over 450 datasets from multiple agencies. The first two datasets released were service requests from the mayor’s call center, including trash pickup, pot hole repair, street light repair, snow removal, parking meter issues and crime data.


According to David Stirgel, program manager for Citywide Data Warehouse, the project looks for data that be of interest to the widest possible audience and which will remain reusable over time. Some of the applications that have come out of the program include Track DC, which tracks the performance of individual District agencies, and summary reports that provide public access to city operational data. Some of the applications built by companies and individuals using the data include Crime Reports and Every Block.


In 2008, the District Mayor’s office, the District of Columbia’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer, and digital agency iStrategyLabs launched Apps for Democracy, an open code app development contest tapping into District data that cost $50,000 and generated 47 apps. The contest was repeated in 2009. Over 200 ideas and applications were submitted, and the winner was an iPhone and Facebook app called Social DC 311. It could be used to submit service requests, such as reporting potholes and trash problems. An honorable mention was given to FixMyCityDC. Unfortunately, neither app is maintained today.



4. NYC Data Mine – New York, NY


NYC BigApps 2.0 is part of an initiative to improve the accessibility, transparency, and accountability of city government. According to Brandon Kessler, CEO of ChallengePost, the company and technology powering the NYC BigApps 2.0 Software Challenge, Mayor Bloomberg challenged software developers to use city data from the NYC.gov Data Mine to create apps to improve NYC, offering a $20,000 in cash awards to the winners.


The second annual challenge closed its call for submissions at the end of January 2011 and opened the vote to the public. Voting ends on March 9. Requirements included that the software applications be original and solely owned by the entrants, that they use at least one of the datasets from the NYC.gov Data Mine, and be free to the public throughout the competition and for at least one year after the challenge. The panel of judges reads like a “who’s who” of New York tech luminaries, and includes Esther Dyson of EDVenture, Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures, Jack Dorsey of Square and Twitter, and Kara Swisher of All Things Digital. One of the first year’s winning apps was WayFinder, an augmented reality Android app which allows users to point their phone in a direction and see which subways and Path trains are in front of them.



5. DataSF – San Francisco, California


Like other city governments, San Francisco’s goal for their DataSF program was to improve transparency and community engagement as well as accountability. Ron Vinson, director of media for the city’s Department of Technology also stated potential for innovation in how residents interact with government and their community. With an emphasis on adhering to privacy and security policies, the city can stimulate the creation of useful civic tools at no cost to the government.


Before launching, they reached out to Washington, DC to identify the most popular datasets, and learned that 20% of the datasets represented over 80% of the downloads. With this information, they went out first with crime, 311, and GIS data. They also allowed the public to request data through a submissions mechanism on the website where others could vote on their suggestions. This input is now required reading for the city administrator thanks to an executive directive and open data legislation.


Since launching in August 2009, DataSF has accumulated over 60 applications in its showcase. According to Vinson, the city stays engaged with their tech community by participating in local unconferences and meetups.






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What you don't know can hurt you


Montreal is lagging behind other jurisdictions like Ottawa and Vancouver in adopting an open-data policy for the benefit of its residents and the city administration itself. The founders of Montreal Ouvert are trying to change that


By LINDA GYULAI, The Gazette November 27, 2010


After the city of Montreal releases the 2011 municipal budget on Wednesday, it will probably format the 300-page brick as a PDF -the Internet equivalent of a brick -and slap it up on the city's website the way it has for previous budgets.


Yes, Montreal makes the spending and tax data contained in the annual budget available. But no, the content isn't truly accessible.


The budget is one example of information that's public but not open in Montreal. There are others. Think of the police department's crime statistics, municipal roadwork contracts, public swimming pool operating hours, business licences, campaign finance figures, bus stop locations, air quality readings and on and on. And now think what it would be like to combine different types of easily accessible information to, say, identify campaign contributors who receive municipal contracts.


That's the sort of thing the public can do, or aspire to do, in a growing number of cities that are adopting open-data policies.


An open-data policy is based on the idea that cities should make the information they possess available for free in a format that allows members of the public to mine and download the raw data and then manipulate it as they see fit.


Releasing the data that way has spawned useful websites and mobile applications, such as a free Ottawa parks and recreation application available on iPhones and iPads that allows people to locate the closest municipal facilities and get contact information and operating hours.


So Montreal is lagging behind Ottawa and such places as Vancouver, Toronto, Edmonton, Nanaimo, Washington, D.C., New York and San Francisco, as well as cities in Europe and Australia, say the founders of Montreal Ouvert, a group pushing for an open-data policy in Montreal.


"We just felt that Montreal is falling behind the times, especially if Montreal is trying to position itself as a tech hub with the gaming industry and software," said Jonathan Brun, a Montrealer who owns two Web-based companies.


"Montreal wasn't even looking at it as far as we could tell. So we said enough is enough and put this group together."


Brun, fellow Web entrepreneur Sebastien Pierre, Michael Lenczner, who is cofounder of Ile sans fil, a free wireless service, and democracy consultant Jean-Noe Landry formed Montreal Ouvert in August.


Since then, they've met with groups of Montreal civil servants and submitted briefs to committees of council to explain how open data could benefit the city and the public.


"It's good for the citizen, and could eventually help improve participation, but it's also good for the city administration itself because they spend a lot of time looking for information they have in one department or another," Brun said.


There's also an economic argument in favour of open data, he added. "It's like releasing a natural resource where companies will come and take this data and offer new services. So it creates jobs."


The city appears to have budged.


A group of Montreal civil servants is studying the possibility of an open-data policy, city spokesperson Gonzalo Nunez said in an email response to The Gazette this week. The group is examining the technical issues involved, the scope of information the city can legally provide given privacy and security restrictions, the cost and staffing needed and the kind of upgrades and maintenance that would be required before the city can decide whether to go ahead, he said.


Still, other sources say Montreal sent observers to a recent meeting to discuss open data among civil servants from Edmonton, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver -known as Canada's G4 of open data -which suggests Montreal has a keen interest to move ahead with an open data policy.


The "G4" cities are working on creating common standards for their terms of use and data catalogues, said Sean McCaffrey, an IT program manager for the city of Ottawa.


"Open data is the initial step to moving governments to being more open and transparent and actually becoming a platform ... for the community," he said.


Some cities, such as Ottawa and Vancouver, have entrenched a commitment to open data by passing city council resolutions. Others, such as Toronto, have gone ahead without it.


Ottawa's chief information officer, or CIO, Guy Michaud, said it's hard to put a dollar amount on the benefits of open data. The benefits are in the form of greater efficiency in finding information within the administration and an expectation that down the road it will reduce the number of access-to-information requests filed by residents. So far, the biggest expense has been $50,000 to run a contest for the public to develop apps for the data, he said.


Unlike most other cities, Montreal doesn't have a chief information officer , which may help explain why the city is behind the others.


Brun said he'd like to see both a Montreal city council resolution to endorse open data and a CIO position created.


"There's no point person for information technology for the entire city," he said.


"In fact, they still view their website as a promotional tool, whereas we're trying to convince them that (they) should view the website as a communication and interaction tool with the citizens. That's the chasm we're trying to get them to leap over. We're trying to get them to think in a slightly different way."


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© Copyright © The Montreal Gazette


Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/What+know+hurt/3892738/story.html#ixzz1EMdejAXc

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