What’s the Deal With Open Data?

Open Data Day is just around the corner, and dozens of open-source cities all around the world are gearing up for a host of hackathon events aimed at trying to solve real-world problems using freely accessible, local data. Literally thousands of people are expected to attend this year’s events in an effort to show support for and encourage more adoption of open data policies by local governments around the world.

With just two days to go before Open Data Day kicks off, we thought it was the perfect opportunity to sit down with one of the biggest proponents of open data, Kyle Taylor, co-founder of TechMill, an online community that seeks to foster the development of tech startups in the Denton area.

As founder of the Open Denton initiative, Kyle is better informed than most about how open-source data – that is, data that anyone can access, use or share – can benefit local communities by promoting transparency in government affairs, creating social and commercial value, and encouraging the public to participate in the betterment of their communities.

“In 2014, I started Open Denton after helping organize an Open Dallas Hackathon,” Kyle related. “It was incredible to see how many people came together to use open data to build tools and apps that benefited their communities and citizens at large.”

For now, much of Kyle’s work on the Open Denton project involves helping city officials convert their local data into a more usable format so that developers will be able to access it and transform it into exciting projects that benefit the whole community.

The concept of open data is still a relatively young one, but Kyle is already sold on its potential, citing several examples of how data is already being put into action in the Dallas area. He highlighted the work of an organization called bcWorkshop (Building Communities Workshop), which has used open data from city council meetings to create The Public Agenda, a free portal that maps city council issues according to addresses and neighborhoods.

“This makes it easy for citizens to open the map, zoom in on their neighborhood, and find out what items on city council’s agenda are affecting their neighborhood,” Kyle explained.

The main benefit of this, of course, is that citizens can voice their own opinions on the matters that concern them, which they might otherwise have missed.

“Open data is important, not just because we can build neat apps or access historical information, but because we can use it to drive new decisions,” Kyle said. “By being an open city, you reap more than you sow by empowering your citizens to be active in the municipal process, which in turn encourages participation in the democratic process.”

Photo by Pixabay

Blog post by: Mike Wheatley

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