Special Report: Open Public Data

McHattie to Present Open Data Notice of Motion

Councillor Brian McHattie will call on Council to direct staff to prepare a report on the benefits, risks and opportunities associated with a City commitment to open public data.

By Ryan McGreal
Published July 22, 2011

Councillor Brian McHattie is presenting a notice of motion to the August 9, 2011 General Issues Committee (GIC, formerly Committee of the Whole) for Council to commit to open public data in Hamilton.

A notice of motion is a formal statement that a Councillor intends to move a motion at a future meeting. In this case, Councillor McHattie is giving notice in August that he will present the motion in September's GIC meeting.

Working with the City Manager's office, which has been supportive of open public data, Councillor McHattie will call on Council to direct staff to prepare a report on the benefits, risks and opportunities associated with a City commitment to open public data.

The wording of the notice of motion is quite similar to a motion that has been proposed by Open Hamilton, a citizens group dedicated to promote open public data while building community resources that demonstrate its benefits.

Just yesterday, Open Hamilton volunteer Joey Coleman published a searchable online map of city beaches, pools, waterparks, wading pools and splash pads.

About Open Public Data

Open public data refers to government data that has been defined as public information and made available in open, standardized formats that are findable, accessible and machine-readable so it can be processed by third-party software applications to create resources.

The purpose is to enable citizens to find, analyze, and do useful things with public information. Software written once to provide a service can then do its job over and over again, improving service delivery while saving the city resources.

Open public data is about making public data more accessible, not making private or confidential data public. Data that has privacy implications deserves to remain private.

Text of the Motion

The full text of McHattie's notice of motion is as follows:

Draft Motion: Open Data in Hamilton

MOTION ON NOTICE

Open Data, Open Standards and Open Source

MOVER:
SECONDER:

WHEREAS the City of Hamilton’s expressed values are: accountability, excellence, honesty, innovation, leadership, respect and teamwork; and that the City wishes to involve its citizens in living these values;

AND WHEREAS the adoption of an Open Data policy is intended to advance these values for the following reasons:

  • municipalities across Canada have an opportunity to dramatically lower their costs by collectively sharing and supporting software they use and create;

  • the total value of public data is maximized when provided for free or where necessary only a minimal cost of distribution;

  • when data is shared freely, citizens are enabled to use and re-purpose it to help create a more economically vibrant and environmentally sustainable city; and Hamilton needs to look for opportunities for creating economic activity and partnership with the creative sectors;

  • the adoption of open standards improves transparency, access to city information by citizens and businesses and improved coordination and efficiencies across municipal boundaries and with federal and provincial partners;

  • digital innovation can enhance citizen communications, support the brand of the city as creative and innovative, improve service delivery, support citizens to self-organize and solve their own problems and create a stronger sense of civic engagement, community and pride;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT in pursuit of an open data policy, the City of Hamilton will:

Direct the City Manager to report back to Council on open data, open standards and open source including validating and quantifying the benefits listed above and the implications, resources, risks and benefits of endorsing the following principles:

  • Open and Accessible Data - the City of Hamilton 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 Hamilton will move as quickly as possible to adopt prevailing open standards for data, documents, maps and other formats of media; and

  • Open Source Software - the City of Hamilton, when replacing existing software or considering new applications, will place open source software on an equal footing with commercial systems during procurement cycles.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By WRCU2 (registered) | Posted July 23, 2011 at 07:22:18

Open Source Software - the City of Hamilton, when replacing existing software or considering new applications, will place open source software on an equal footing with commercial systems during procurement cycles.

This may be too much to expect from the Open Data movement. I doubt there are very many in tech-heavy city departments who can handle the raw power of an Open Source Operating System like Linux.

I would not have been able to build a bot that grabs all the RTH user statistics and crunch those numbers in a holistic way using Windows. The things I like to do with data require a powerful desktop at my disposal but that's just me, most folks are content with ordinary tools while I prefer the extraordinary.

Comment edited by WRCU2 on 2011-07-23 07:40:47

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By JoeyColeman (registered) - website | Posted July 23, 2011 at 11:35:57 in reply to Comment 66826

Most things are great in moderation.

The City can save millions of dollars by switching from Word to OpenOffice or another open source word processor.

Open source GIS software is improving significantly. There may be individuals outside of the GIS department who interact with GIS data whom can use open-source instead of costly commercial software.

There are instances where that commercial software is superior and needed by some staff. For the vast majority, it is not and we can save a lot of money by going open source at the City.

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By WRCU2 (registered) | Posted July 24, 2011 at 07:42:28 in reply to Comment 66835

I am all for OpenSource AND OpenData Joey, you can see what I've done with RTH user data because the information has always been open and transparent. Anyone can do what I have done although probably not as easily as I have if they're not using OpenSource software. Also, be careful how you use the word superior when talking about proprietary software with all their licenses and strings attached to them.

The City can save millions of dollars by switching from Word to OpenOffice or another open source word processor.

IT is interesting when you say that because I know for a fact each and every user at RTH who uses MS_WORD. This crap of an app drops a ^M non-printing character string at the end of each and every line of what should be plain text only comments. This is also a dead-giveaway for all RTH article/blog contributors as well; Microsoft Word always leaves behind a characteristic IT smell.

we can save a lot of money by going open source at the City.

I won't deny that but this debate has been raging for over a decade. Perhaps Bob Young could have an open office word with the City of Hamilton IT department heads while passing around a few complimentary Enterprise Red-Hats? You know he had another life before he became a gold & black Cat.

BTW - Joey Coleman is technically the #1 Registered Raise The Hammer user and he's top-of-the-line. And so long as he keeps posting regularly he will remain there a very long time. Congratulations Mr. Coleman for your blogging so fine!!!

PS - Thanks for the initial downvote TnT;0)

Comment edited by WRCU2 on 2011-07-24 08:20:35

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By reader (anonymous) | Posted July 24, 2011 at 15:33:28 in reply to Comment 66853

"BTW - Joey Coleman is technically the #1 Registered Raise The Hammer user.."
--who the F cares!

"You can seewhat I've done with RTH user data because the information has always been open and transparent."

You gave yourself permission to get/steal this or its available to everybody?

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By Whoppee (anonymous) | Posted July 23, 2011 at 08:35:47

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted July 23, 2011 at 10:30:26

So, commentators, should I conclude that you don't want to ensure COH information is not only available to all, and in a format that is clear, understandable and usable? Really?

Joey Coleman's Splash Pad interactive map is a perfect example of the above.

While I realize not everyone has a computer, many do. As a result, many parents and grandparents can look at the Splash Pad map and figure out where they are, when they're open, if there's a fee, how to get there, and what they'll find when they get there. Seems pretty good to me. And, I suspect, the many kids who visited a splash pad this week. That's only one simple map.

BTW, it's a map the City didn't have and wasn't about to build. A citizen did it, not to show off, but to show what's possible. It's already being used by citizens, all within 24 hours of it being available. On so many levels, that's what I call a good example of citizen engagement.

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By TnT (registered) | Posted July 24, 2011 at 01:03:30 in reply to Comment 66832

Very true. Thanks to this I took my three year old out of the heat.

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By WRCU2 (registered) | Posted July 24, 2011 at 08:32:54 in reply to Comment 66849

With all due respect for Joey I didn't need a map to find my garden hose TnT, so does this mean I am opposed to technology?

Comment edited by WRCU2 on 2011-07-24 09:08:18

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By The Gravy Continues (anonymous) | Posted July 25, 2011 at 08:21:49

"Joey Coleman's Splash Pad interactive map is a perfect example of the above."

Joey has found a way of telling me all about the swimming opportunities in my neighbourhood. Well done Joey. I would not have known this without you.

Now I can enjoy the venues that I have always known existed.

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