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City Of Ottawa Launches Open Data Site

The City of Ottawa has launched a new open data site, releasing data sets on museums, pathways, outdoor rinks and other recreational facilities.  City council voted to support the principle of making all municipal data available to the public in accessible format.

6 Comments

  1. Dwight Williams says:

    This could be useful to a lot of people.

  2. Review of Terms of Use
    Michael, I’d love to see you do a review of the terms of use. Calling it open is a bit of a stretch with those terms. They seem to be wrestling with ‘do what you want but don’t blame us’ to ‘we can’t give up control’.

  3. @Amos
    Looks like a pretty standard legal form to me. The Exclusion of Liability clause, to me, seems to be saying that you get what you pay for; since you are not paying for the data, and there is no legal requirement for the city to provide the data to you, then the onus is on you for the use of the data. Heck, you aren’t even required to credit the city for the data.

    I haven’t yet seen in the media anywhere what the budget is for this. Oh, they’ve announced that they’ve set aside $50K for the contest, but what of the data format conversion costs to make the data available, as well as the incremental costs for the server and network capacity to access it? Given that the current mayor stood on the podium of 0% tax increases for his term (this after 2 successive years of the same under the previous mayor, who is now going to run provincially), I am a little surprised… after all, this was the same mayor that wanted to run the city more as a business… so wouldn’t that mean charging a license fee for the data?

  4. Dwight Williams says:

    Someone must’ve gotten to the bulk of the rest of City Council on this one.

    Where’s the resolution text and vote details?

  5. @Anon-K
    There’s a lot of low-hanging fruit — data that can be made available with no additional conversion necessary, or with very minimal conversion (ie: just exporting as CSV or XLS from an existing database) that can be done automatically on a nightly or weekly basis. The incremental costs of making this available to the public should be lost in the noise, given how much bandwidth the city wastes on other items.

    Assuming enough useful data is made available, I would expect this to be a net gain for the city — citizens will use the data they’ve already paid for to create new and interesting tools that the city itself doesn’t need to write. For example, octranspo.net is more usable than the official OCTranspo schedule site.

  6. @dave0
    Agreed, however one must remember that this isn’t without cost to the taxpayer in the short term as the city gets all of this set up, plus the ongoing costs of conversion, even if it isn’t that much there is still a cost. In the long run (there is the off chance that) it may turn out to save the city money, but given the fact that there is a very vocal minority in the city on the far political right who seem to be of the opinion “why do today what I can put off for tomorrow, especially if it will save me a couple of bucks today”, I am surprised this went through, especially given that this is an election year.

    Don’t get me wrong; I applaud this initiative. However many seem to forget that there is a cost, even if it is low enough that it is lost in the noise.

    The other concern that I have with it is the accuracy of the third party apps. How often will the app provider update the data set used by the app itself, especially if they need to massage the data into a format usable by the app (for instance, to compile it into a more compact form so that it can be stored on mobile devices).

    Another issue is that, frankly, having third party apps available may not satisfy the citizens of Ottawa. For example, I don’t own an iPhone (my phone is Symbian based); what use is an iPhone app that provides bus schedules to me? In particular if OC Transpo stops putting their schedules on their website. I view these third party apps as value added, but should compliment the existing, more general web interface rather than replacing it. This initiative shouldn’t have the effect of taking away access for a part of the population, which is a risk if the city decides to replace their existing capabilities with the external apps. Ironically, under this scenario, while the data availability itself is “open”, the ability for the citizens of Ottawa to use the data is more restricted than it currently is.