At the City of Peterborough Committee of the Whole meeting earlier this week, councillors approved a report proposing a new Geomatics/Mapping GIS Open Data policy. The report will now go to Council for final approval. Further, Mayor Bennett made a motion asking staff to bring back a corporate-wide Open Data initiative. This motion was passed.
While these policies might not seem grand in nature, they are proposals that have the potential to allow for innovative economic opportunities for current and new businesses in the Peterborough area. Open Data is defined as data sets generated by government entities that do not disclose any information that threatens privacy or public security. Open Data policies allow for the provision of those data sets to the public in a common computer format, without restrictions of copyright, patent or other control mechanisms, and free of charge (Report PLGMD 15-002 GIS Open Data Initiative).
The Chamber Network has been advocating for Open Data policies at the various levels of government for almost four years, so the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce is pleased to see the City of Peterborough taking this step.
We have been asking for:
The program is strong in the United Kingdom and United States, and the City of Peterborough report says, “Since 2008, more than 50 Canadian jurisdictions have joined the Open Data movement and are freely providing municipal data via the web.” Additionally, a look at a U.S. website shows 40 U.S. states, 48 U.S. Cities and Counties, 52 International Countries, and 164 International regions involved in Open Data programs.
The City report identifies five drivers behind the Open Data movement, including Open Data as an Economic Driver of Growth. Public Sector Information (PSI) constitutes the raw material for a variety of products and services in applications across a wide range of industries, and
analysis has concluded that it is an important economic asset. The report goes on to say that geographic data has one of the greatest economic potentials and in its use, so far, has had positive impacts on employment and growth.
Throughout the Chamber Network in Ontario, we have heard of enterprising companies and entrepreneurs who have used public data to create new apps to help the citizens of their community (e.g., improving garbage schedule awareness; a parking app that can lead you back to your vehicle, or an app that communicates bus locations in real time).
The Ontario government has also started opening up data under a new directive that was approved late last fall. In fact, at the time of this printing, the provincial government will have about 75 per cent of its data inventory published with the full inventory published online by the end of October.
The provincial database will include whether a data set is currently open, in progress to become open, under review, or restricted from being open. The provincial program includes 529 data sets in a number of areas from the environment and energy to business and the economy to education and training. The provincial government also recognizes that these data sets can have a positive economic impact as “researchers, app developers, non-profit organizations and others are using our [provincial] data to come up with innovative applications, programs and solutions to help Ontarians”.
We at the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce hope the City of Peterborough continues to open the door to open data.