A topic that is hugely hot these days, particularly with the GeoTech crowd, is Open Data. I spent an evening in the meeting chambers at our local City Hall discussing OpenData with about 2 dozen other geeks with nothing better to do on a Monday night. The event was planned by and run by opendata enthusiast and co-founder of CitizenBridge, Richard Pietro and brought together about 10 very knowledgeable speakers and enthusiasts to share their stories and advice. The tour, which is supported by sponsorship from the Microsoft backed Open Source project, Make Web not War, is designed to ignite the open government conversation in areas that may not have had the chance to experience the conversation – that may not be the case in Victoria BC but it is always a great idea to re-ignite the discussion.
It was a great opportunity, although I will admit I was somewhat disappointed in the lack of presence by local Government reps from the outlying districts (our area is made up of 13 local governments but only one was represented), although the Province had a number of reps on hand – kudos! There were about 2 dozen folks in attendance including a number of BC Government employees, reps from the private sector/small business, and sadly, only one local government was represented – The City of Victoria (kudos to acting Mayor, Councillor Marianne Alto on her support and enthusiasm for the topic!). In all honesty, in Victoria where the region is made of of some 13 smaller local governments this really is a huge problem and something that the local regions really need to address! I believe the problem here is that local government simply doesn’t take this topic seriously. Also, add to the fact that Victoria City (and Data BC) is driving the bus and the other, smaller municipalities and government agencies really don’t like to feel like they are being told what to do – the result, they simply don’t listen and they persist on locking up their data! BC Transit was not represented as well, nor were any other regional groups or Crown Corps (BC Ferries and BC hydro perhaps). Not to be a total downer, the BC Government reps and the City of Victoria were extremely supportive and excited about the topic – something to be encouraged about!
I quickly realized that if Open Data is to succeed and take off then it needs people [like you and I] to get involved, it takes champions, and people need to encourage their local government to get involved. There’s plenty of opportunity in this space but what really will help is sharing those success stories, begging for open data locally, and planning similar events, hackathons, Ignite talks, and basically, getting your feet wet and diving in to the Open Data pool.
@herblainchbury of OpenDataBC discusses OpenData in BC
Some useful pointers and tips about open data resources, tools, platforms, and more were shared at the event and referenced or used as examples in the discussion. Some of these resources can be found:
- The open government partnership (OGP)
- Open Data Institute
- Citizen Bridge
- Ontario Brain Institute – Brain CODE Project
- Liquid Feedback.org
- Loomio collaboration resource
- Helios opensource framework
- CKAN opendata portal platform
- Socrata opendata framework
- Dave Meslin’s TedX Talk
- import.io web scraping tool
- BC First Nations Development Database
- Data BC
- Open Data BC