New framework promises cities ‘the next frontier’ in data-sharing

A group of telecommunications companies and the nonprofit U.S. Ignite want city governments to look beyond open data and begin using what they call a "data-sharing exchange."

The “smart city”-focused nonprofit U.S. Ignite and a telecommunications industry group on Wednesday published an open-source policy framework designed to allow cities to share data quickly and efficiently with their vendors, community groups and neighboring communities.

The framework, a set of specifications that local governments can integrate into their existing data-collection and publishing operations, is designed to help cities move to the “next level” of data-sharing, beyond publishing open data to a portal accessible to the public. Instead, U.S. Ignite and ATIS, or the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions, which represents 150 firms worldwide, want to help build a “data catalog” that gives cities — and the companies they do business with — a quicker and more direct pipeline to data collected from connected infrastructure, like sensors and cameras.

A data catalog, the framework document says, would act much like an open data portal does for residents, but instead enable verified third parties to search and register metadata for their own consumption, requesting data when they need it. A city-owned catalog, when connected with other cities or vendors, creates a data-sharing exchange that will only increase the value of data that cities are already collecting, according to Mike Nawrocki, an executive at ATIS.

“Many cities have open data sets for their citizens, businesses, app developers and so on,” Nawrocki said. “But what we see as the next frontier in data-sharing is more about integrating that data together.”


Nawrocki told StateScoop that ATIS and U.S. Ignite consulted a couple dozen companies and cities — including Washington, D.C., Denver, San Diego and Portland — in developing the specifications over the last two years. An authorized user, Nawrocki said, could take advantage of searching, filtering and other API-assisted functions to browse and analyze data between different cities and third-party vendors while categorizing by file size, file type, media type or originating organization.

But the framework also highlights the need for cities to employ “data stewards” to ensure transparency and privacy qualifications are met with third-party data, organizers said.

“The value of city data doesn’t end at the borders of municipal control,” Praveen Ashok, a technical program manager at US Ignite, said in a press release. “Whether people are monitoring traffic patterns to understand mobility demands, or analyzing resource availability to develop economic strategy, they need data sets that extend beyond governmental boundaries.”

Nawrocki and Ashok said that use cases for a data catalog are abundant, even in cities that haven’t considered creating one yet. Ashok said Portland and San Diego — both cities with mature open-data programs — exchanged environmental and business data collected by the cities themselves, private sector partners and the federal government to identify prime locations for opening new small businesses. The same kind of collaboration between cities would benefit environmental, public safety and transportation initiatives, the framework document says, especially as more infrastructure is deployed to collect data in smart cities.

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