Open data policies can also lead to the crowdsourcing of useful information for cities to use in improving their service to citizens.
In South Bend, civic technologists built an interface that allowed people to both report vacant buildings to the city and for the city to let people know about existing plans for building demolition or redevelopment.
In all cases, the value of open data is limited by the degree to which local transparency advocates know about it and use it. It’s time to expand expand the rights we have to access all the halls of power, be they the elegant marble foyers of the United States Congress or the carpet-tiled corridors of the smallest town office.
To help the sun shine into your own government through a different window, urge it to establish an official policy that guarantees you constant and immediate access to your public information. When we free the public data we’re achieving the enduring goal of freedom of information—while using the advantages of the 21st century.
Emily Shaw is national policy manager for the Sunlight Foundation.