28 February 2016

Mayor Murray signs City of Seattle’s new Open Data Policy

“This is not just about transparency, but about creativity and partnership.” -Mayor Ed Murray, at the Open Data Policy signing

Mayor Ed Murray signing the open data policy

Friday, February 26th was an exciting day for Civic Technology in Seattle: Mayor Ed Murray formally signed the city’s new Executive Order on Open Data at Impact Hub Seattle. The City of Seattle, the Sunlight Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies’ national What Works Cities initiative, the University of Washington, and citizens collaborated to bring the Open Data Policy to life.

Candace Faber, Civic Technology Advocate of the City of Seattle, hosted the event. One major theme of the presentation was the focus on partnerships among the government, businesses, other organizations, and individuals. The presenters explained that resource-constrained governments need assistance to tap into the rich opportunities available from their data.

A key aspect of the new policy is making data open by preference, versus open by default – the “preference” policy brings a focus on protecting privacy, ensuring security, and screening for quality.

Highlights of the policy:

  • It will be machine readable so it’s possible to integrate the data into tools more easily.
  • It takes planning into account – departments will think ahead when planning their work, and keep open data as part of their end goal.
  • There will be an Open Data champion in each department, responsible for keeping the data and noting which ones are priority.
  • It supports stakeholder engagement – engaging the Civic Technology community to determine which data has the most value.
  • It has an emphasis on privacy, so that the public can trust that all the data will be reviewed before release, to protect citizens’ privacy

The policy instructs all departments to eventually provide all of their data, and helps filter and prioritize the release. Candace emphasized that the signing is the first step of a lot of effort, mainly figuring out how the policy will integrate with existing work. In June, the city will hold a training program for data champions. By the end of 2016, 20 departments at the cabinet level to have an Open Data champion, and the city will have a minimum of 544 data sets minimum published. The Open Data Program currently holds 440 city data sets.

An attendee asked the Mayor, how will you measure success? The mayor gave the example of human service contracts, and how the city doesn’t to a good job of measuring the outcomes of these contracts: is a program accomplishing what it said it would, such as getting someone off the streets and helping them stay off the streets? He emphasized holding groups accountable by determining where things aren’t working, then changing course and using limited city money wisely.

Representatives for seven projects did lighting talks and did live demos:

  • Access Maps Seattle, a pedestrian accessibility application for Seattle sidewalks for pedestrians.
  • Seattle in Progress, a project to make citizens more informed and engaged about construction and development within the city.
  • Seattle Parks Finder, which allows you to research parks before visiting them. Seattle Parks will be at the next Open Seattle meeting, Wednesday March 9th 6pm at Socrata.
  • SPS interactive, which makes Seattle Public School district data open and accessible, so users can can find and compare data about Seattle schools.
  • Hoof It, which shares traffic signal locations for pedestrians
  • Open Seattle’s very own Hey Duwamish!
  • Spokin, a cross between a social network and a wiki, to help people understand the communities they’re a part of and how to improve them. The communities can be topic-based or location-based. It will use data that is user-generated as well as public data.

For more information:

Katherine Boyd is the owner of Halcyon Northwest, a Seattle-area consulting company specializing in data and public policy.