Houston launched an open data policy last week, becoming the latest major American city to mandate that its agencies make their government information available to the public in easily consumable ways.
Mayor Annise Parker announced the policy, called the Open Data Administrative Procedure, which calls for Jackie Smith, the recently appointed enterprise data officer, and an open data advisory board to work with city departments to catalog data sets and establish standards for the city open data portal.
Smith and the advisory board, which will be appointed in the coming weeks, are also responsible for working with the public to identify important, high-value data sets.
“This is about increasing transparency,” Parker said in a release. “It is also about citizen engagement and increasing the pace of innovation in our city. We want to engage the talents of our strong science, technology, engineering and math community to help us solve the challenges of the 21st century.”
Smith said the portal would enable “civic technologists, entrepreneurs, innovators, researchers and others to use the data to generate new products and services, as well as build businesses and develop community resources in partnership with government to better serve the public. We want to know what the public wants to see that isn’t already available.”
Houston has already made some of its data available to citizens. Earlier this year, the city launched interim and mapping centric portals with more than 220 publicly accessible datasets. Houston has one of the largest civic technology communities in the country and benefits from a strong partnership with Open Houston, a local nonprofit open data advocacy group that organizes hackathons and other events to develop solutions for the public.
“The City’s Open Data Initiative ensures that we continue to move towards Government 2.0,” Mayor Pro Tem Ed Gonzalez said in a release. “Citizens expect their government to work for them but they are also often willing to propose ideas and solutions to help us tackle our diverse challenges. I’m immensely proud of our innovative community for stepping up over the past few years to help civic innovation thrive here in Houston. This is an important first step.”
As the nation’s fourth most populated city with 2.2 million residents, Houston was the largest in the country without an open data policy as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago all have already put such policies in place.
“We’re really excited to see the City’s commitment to open data,” said Jeff Reichman, co-organizer of Open Houston and consultant at January Advisors, in the release. “Just by publishing up-to-date data, the City instantly engages a community of people who will put it to use.”