Open the Doors to Data in Vancouver

Vancouver is one of a small group of leading cities in North America that are opening up data to citizens. While most government decision making, processes and data (at all levels) are closed to the public, Vancouver has taken the unique step of publishing a Council resolution supporting Open Data, Open Standards and Open Source. The resolution reads in part:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the City of Vancouver endorses the principles of:
• Open and Accessible Data – the City of Vancouver will freely share with citizens, businesses and other jurisdictions the greatest amount of data possible while respecting privacy and security concerns;
• Open Standards – the City of Vancouver will move as quickly as possible to adopt prevailing open standards for data, documents, maps, and other formats of media;
• Open Source Software – the City of Vancouver, when replacing existing software or considering new applications, will place open source software on an equal footing with commercial systems during procurement cycles;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT in pursuit of open data the City of Vancouver will:
• Identify immediate opportunities to distribute more of its data;
• Index, publish and syndicate its data to the internet using prevailing open standards, interfaces and formats;
• Develop appropriate agreements to share its data with the Integrated Cadastral Information Society (ICIS) and encourage the ICIS to in turn share its data with the public at large;
• Develop a plan to digitize and freely distribute suitable archival data to the public;
• Ensure that data supplied to the City by third parties (developers, contractors, consultants) are unlicensed, in a prevailing open standard format, and not copyrighted except if otherwise prevented by legal considerations;
• License any software applications developed by the City of Vancouver such that they may be used by other municipalities, businesses, and the public without restriction.

To support developers in accessing data, the City has produced a Data Catalogue here. Most data is geospatial (boundaries, traffic, etc.) more and more interesting data is being added.

Most interesting is that the initiative has political support. Indeed, both Counciller Andrea Reimer and Mayor Gregor Robertson were speakers at the Open Data + Culture Day at the W2 Media Centre. Along with David Eaves, a tireless proponent of open government in Canada, they spoke about the opoortuities this data opens for citizens.

Whether creating simple applications that can automatically send you  a text message reminding you to put the garbage out, to giving citizens access to council agendas and minutes to make their own informed decisions, to allowing detailed analysis of City data, the “open” movement has incredible potential. Almost a year ago I wrote about how this data is being used in the U.S. I’m very excited to see how applications and data use evolves in Vancouver. (See the wiki for examples of applications)


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