How transparency is the new norm for city data
Knowledge is power as we all remember the message from after school television commercials. It is a good thing that our local governments are seeing the citizenry as a partner lately. Sharing information is now easier then ever and most major cities are taking advantage of technology to bridge the information gap between itself and the citizens.
As Philadelphia’s chief data officer, Tim Wisniewski, 28, holds a fairly new job title. He helps publish the city’s data—employee salaries, crimes and property assessments, among other things—for public consumption on the Web.
It’s all in the spirit of transparency and spurring civic innovation. Since Mr. Wisniewski took over in 2014, he has seen a number of promising outcomes, he says.
In a recent interview, he discussed open data and how it might shape city life going forward. Edited excerpts follow.
Philadelphia’s chief data officer, Tim Wisniewski, hopes that making city data public can create a new mind-set about city government and lead to innovation.
MR. WISNIEWSKI: Open data brings us toward a more open government: knowing what it does, who it is, how it works. That leads to more trust in government, more confidence. It makes people more likely to vote and take care of their properties and go to their civic association meetings and feel more engaged.
MR. WISNIEWSKI: We’ve done that in a couple of ways. The police released crime incident data; it’s updated every night, and there’s a real-time feed for it as an open data release. A local software developer created a really cool map that lets you draw a shape around your neighborhood and see all the crime incidents that have occurred there. It was so neat that the police department adopted it, and now it’s the official crime map of the police department.
That’s a small example relative to what could happen. Let’s say a citizen does an analysis of bus-arrival data and recommends an optimal schedule to the transit authority for how buses should be rerouted. That’s down the line, but these little examples of government putting data out there, and then adopting what people do with it, is, I think, creating a culture that will lead to those big things.
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