San Diego Portal to Bring City Data to Residents

     SAN DIEGO (CN) – San Diego is on track to launch the first city-operated open-data website in Southern California, city officials said Thursday.
     City employees with the Open Data Program told members of the Council Committee on Economic Development and Intergovernmental Relations they are on track to launch the open data portal this July.
     At least 20 datasets are expected to be made available at the launch, Almis Udrys, director of the performance and analytics department, said.
     The open-data program was created out of a resolution approved by San Diego City Council in January 2014 in support of an open-data policy at the city. The DataSD website will house easy-to-understand datasets complied by different agencies and departments across the city.
     Visitors to the website can vote on which datasets they want to be made available first – from a count on the number of seals that call La Jolla Shores home to response times of paramedics and firefighter crews.
     Udrys said the most popular datasets from their inventory of 115 datasets from 20 city departments have been the ones on the economy and community, with datasets on the number of foreclosed properties and car collisions and arrests getting a big chunk of the vote.
     So far the city has received around 200 votes from more than 60 individuals, according to Udrys.
     The city will release the datasets over the course of the next few years with the goal of publishing all “high-value” datasets by January 2020. High-value datasets would include those that are easily cleaned up for publishing and contain important information to help the city enact policy or for the public to request policy initiatives or changes, according to the department.
     Getting public participation to help determine which datasets to prioritize is something that sets San Diego’s program a part from other similar initiatives in cities like Chicago and San Francisco, Udrys said. City experts used New York’s open-data program as a jumping-off point, Udrys noted, and then took it to the next level.
     He said this program has been well-received by the community and has shed positive light on work being done at the city.
     “We’re very proud. The city often takes hits and negative stories are told about it. But we’re turning transparency buzzwords into something real. It’s very novel to let people to vote on the datasets. It’s an important factor in knowing what people will actually use,” Udrys said.
     Udrys called the open-data program a “triple whammy” for the city, noting it will empower city employees, increase public transparency and potentially create economic opportunity.
     Members of the committee, including Councilmen Chris Cate and Mark Kersey and Councilwoman Myrtle Cole, all expressed support for increasing budgetary resources for the program come budget season.
     “I’m giddy about this. Our office is constantly hounding city departments for datasets. I appreciate the caution you are using in moving forward so you don’t do it wrong, but we can’t wait,” Cate said.

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