Open Data comes to Edmonton

Today I’m excited to share the news that Open Data has arrived in Edmonton! In a presentation to City Council this afternoon, Edmonton CIO Chris Moore will describe what the City has accomplished thus far and will outline some of the things we can look forward to over the next six months (I’ll update here after the presentation with any new information). This morning, he announced the initial release of data.edmonton.ca, the City of Edmonton’s open data catalogue. Starting immediately, developers can access 12 different data sets, including the locations of City parks, locations of historical buildings, and a list of planned road closures.

PDF You can download the report to Executive Committee here in PDF.

The report was created in an open fashion – the information inside was provided by 39 contributors who had access to a shared document on Google Docs.

Data Catalogue

The data catalogue is currently in the “community preview” phase, which basically means that the City of Edmonton may make breaking changes. Critically, the data available in the catalogue is licensed under very friendly terms:

“The City of Edmonton (the City) now grants you a worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive licence to use, modify, and distribute the datasets in all current and future media and formats for any lawful purpose.”

Developers access the data in the catalogue using the APIs. This might seem a little cumbersome at first, but it actually means you can programmatically traverse and download the entire catalogue! Developers can also run simple queries and view preview data on each data set page.

The catalogue features a prominent “feedback” link on every page, so check it out and let the City know how to make it better.

OGDI

The City of Edmonton’s data catalogue is built on Microsoft’s Open Government Data Initiative (OGDI) platform. OGDI is an open source project that makes it easy for governments to publish data on the web. The City of Edmonton, which is the first major government agency in Canada North America to use OGDI, will be contributing enhancements back to the project. OGDI is built atop the Windows Azure platform, and exposes a REST interface for developers. By default it supports the OData, JSON, and KML formats. Developers can access ODGI using their technology of choice, and C#, Java, and PHP developers can make use of the toolkits provided by Microsoft.

History of Open Data in Edmonton

We have been talking about open data for roughly a year now (and probably even longer). On February 18, 2009, Edmonton Transit officially launched Google Transit trip planning, which made use of a GTFS feed provided by ETS. At TransitCamp Edmonton on May 30, 2009, that data was made available to local developers. I led a discussion about open data a couple of weeks later at BarCampEdmonton2, on June 13, 2009. Councillor Don Iveson submitted a formal inquiry on open data to City administration on October 14, 2009. A few days later, the community talked again about open data at ChangeCamp Edmonton on October 17, 2009, focusing on Councillor Iveson’s inquiry. That event led to the creation of the #yegdata hashtag, a UserVoice site to identify potential data sets, and a number of smaller follow-up events. It also prompted Chris Moore to open up access to the creation of his report. On November 23, 2009 the City of Edmonton hosted an Open Data Workshop at City Hall that was attended by about 45 people.

What’s next?

First and foremost, developers need to start using the data! There will also be opportunities to provide feedback on the catalogue, to help prioritize new data sets, and to get involved with crafting the City strategy. Here’s the Program Plan for the City’s Open Data Initiative:

  • January 13, 2010: Initial release of City of Edmonton data catalogue
  • January 2010: Sessions with utility & organizational partners to obtain more data
  • February 2010: Public Involvement Plan
  • February – April 2010: Official data catalogue release, application competition!
  • March – April 2010: Development & approval of open data strategy for the City of Edmonton
  • May 2010: Open Data Administrative Directive, approved by City Manager
  • May – June 2010: Open Data Road Show, to communicate the strategy

In Vancouver, the policy came first and the data catalogue came second. In Edmonton we’re doing the reverse. We end up with the same result though: by the spring we’ll have a data catalogue in use by developers, and an official policy and strategy for open data in the future. This is fantastic news for all Edmontonians!

Congratulations & Thanks

Congrats and thanks to: Chris Moore for providing the leadership necessary at the City of Edmonton for all of this to become a reality; James Rugge-Price and Devin Serink, for organizing the workshop in November, for doing most of the behind-the-scenes work, and for always keeping the discussion alive and interesting; Jacob Modayil, Stephen Gordon, Jason Darrah, and Gordon Martin for supporting this initiative from the beginning, and for bringing valuable experience and leadership to the table; Don Iveson, for recognizing the positive role that open data will play in building a better a Edmonton; all of the members of the community who have contributed ideas and helped to spread the word about open data; all of the other City of Edmonton employees who have supported open data in Edmonton. And finally, thanks to Vancouver, Toronto, and everyone else who came before us for leading the charge.

Enough reading – go build something amazing!