Open Municipal Government Toolkit – Open Data
Open Data is the term used to refer to government data that is freely shared and can be used without restrictions. Usually this is raw data that is available for download via the internet. This data may be available as GIS map layers, as a dataset, in a spreadsheet or in another format. As a best practice, open data should not be released in a report or a PDF – the data should be in a format where is can be analyzed by the user.
In keeping with Open Government principles of accessibility and transparency, municipalities should be prepared to respond to requests for raw data. Proactively sharing data is best practice.
Guidelines for Sharing Data:
- Share original/primary data. Data should be published in primary format, not a report. For example, a registry of approved permits could be published in a spreadsheet so that the data could be used to determine where new construction is occurring or to calculate value of new homes.
- Data should be released in a timely fashion. By routinely updating data, it remains current. For example, Council member expenses could be published monthly.
- Data should be accessible. Data should be placed in an easily accessible place on the municipal website.
- Access should be open to everyone. Data should be available in a variety of formats so that it is accessible.
- Data should be in raw form, downloadable and useable. For example, the registry of building permit should be consistently coded – single detached house, semi-detached house, commercial building – so that the data can be analyzed. The data should be in raw form rather than a PDF so that the data can be analyzed and shared.
Technology allows citizens to access and analyze information about the municipal government elected to serve them. Open Data PEI is one group who analyzes and uses open data sources.
While there are few examples of municipal open datasets, some PEI municipalities include details about their programs and facilities on their websites or publish reports listing approved building permits. Reformatting this information into datasets would be an easy way of starting an open data program.