Edmonton is officially the first city in North America to sign onto Microsoft’s Open Government Data Initiative, and has released its first set of downloadable databases holding pertinent municipal data. The City of Municipality is using Windows Azure to host their open data catalogue.
Here’s why the Opendata movement across Canadian cities is awesome:
1) It gives you the power to make your city more user-friendly
Okay, so “user-friendly” isn’t a term typically associated with places, but it’s fitting in this sense, where users = citizens that use the data. With Edmonton’s municipal data now publicly available for download and contributions, this means the door is open for anyone, not just government, to create new, different, or more accessible ways of accessing municipal information like bus schedules, census details, and zoning information.
Data is already open in a number of Canadian cities, including Vancouver and Toronto, and members of these communities are already creating applications that are both innovative and useful. A great example is an app called Transitdb by Carson Lam,uses the data from TransLink (transportation authority in Vancouver) to provide visual bus route info, schedules and efficiently help anyone navigate Vancouver’s public transit system. Finalist of last year’s FTW! Coding Competition, it was ported to PHP running Windows Server and SQL.
Now, applications like Transitdb, or Vantrash and others, can be made for Edmonton and the sky is the limit for these apps. How about a street parking app; anyone?
2) It makes your life easier
As more apps are created from Edmonton’s and other cities’ open data catalogues, this information can be accessed by anyone, anywhere, at any time. This adds up to major opportunities to create “mash-ups” like you’ve never seen before. Think: an app that lets you figure out a bus route to a city park with a library nearby and tells you when the next bus arrives; then mashing that up with street light and crime information so that you know you’ll be alright if the latest Dan Brown novel kept you in pinned to the park bench until it got dark J. It could even be something as simple as knowing the closest sport to take your recyclables in your neighbourhood.
The promise of coordinated open data initiatives across Canada is that the data sets and apps that are created can be created in one city and then reused somewhere else. This means apps born in Vancouver have potential to live in Edmonton when Edmonton’s data is subbed in. Likewise, you don’t have to live in Edmonton to create an application that will be useful to people.
If you’re looking for an opportunity to change the world, this is it!
Want to create an app for Edmonton? Access their open data here.