City of Edmonton launches Apps4Edmonton Competition

On Wednesday the City of Edmonton officially launched its Apps4Edmonton competition, which challenges residents to submit ideas for apps and developers to actually build them. There is more than $50,000 in prizes available, and everyone has a chance to win an Apple iPad. Here’s what the competition is all about:

Every Edmontonian can be an active participant in reshaping our city. Together with community partners the City of Edmonton is proud to launch Apps4Edmonton – a contest which encourages residents to develop applications that will benefit Edmontonians.

Using data sets from the Edmonton Open Data Catalogue, we’re challenging you to develop an app for either a smart phone, mobile device, or PC web browser. Mash up a map, create a visualization, or analyze data in a new way, the choice is yours.

To support the competition, the City has also released an update to the Data Catalogue. There are now 25 datasets available, including Ward boundaries and a list of City facilities. Even more datasets should be available soon, and if there’s something specific you’d like to have, request it from

If you have an idea for an app, submit it here. It can be anything, so be creative! Even if your idea isn’t possible or a developer doesn’t want to take it on, it might serve as inspiration for other apps, so don’t be shy. If you’re building or have already built an app, submit it here. You have until August 27 to do so. The FAQ has some good info, and be sure to familiarize yourself with the rules too.

Applications will be judged on four criteria: Accessibility, Usability, Creativity, and the number of community votes received (voting runs online from August 27 to September 10). In addition to three overall prizes (Gold, Silver, Bronze) there are six categories:

  • The Way We Live
  • The Way We Grow
  • The Way We Green
  • The Way We Move
  • The Way We Plan
  • The Way We Prosper

I’m very happy to see that IT has aligned itself with Transforming Edmonton for this competition! I am hopeful that Apps4Edmonton can help introduce more Edmontonians to those important documents that help guide us toward becoming a more innovative, inclusive, and creative city.

To learn more about Apps4Edmonton, visit the contest site. There should be lots of chatter about the competition at Startup Weekend too, and tonight at the Emerging Business Leaders’ Patio Party.

I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with!

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, 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.


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!

Recap: City of Edmonton Open Data Workshop

On Saturday afternoon about 45 people met at City Hall to discuss open data in a workshop hosted by the City of Edmonton’s IT department (you can read the Edmonton Journal’s coverage here). I think we made great progress, and I’m happy that so many people gave up their Saturday afternoon to come out and help!

Open Data Workshop
Photo Credit: Ryan Jackson, Edmonton Journal

Our emcee for the day was Jas Darrah, and he did a great job of keeping us on track. We started with an introduction to open data, delivered by me. My job was to just make sure everyone was on the same page, and to hopefully start a little excitement by sharing what other cities have done. Here are the slides I presented:

Stephen Gordon spoke next, adding some context and background on the City of Edmonton’s perspective. It was great to have him available throughout the day to answer questions. After that, Gordon Martin took over to facilitate a session on defining our guiding principles for open data. We broke into three groups to brainstorm, and I was surprised that each group came up with different principles. Here’s the tag cloud that Devin created based on the results of our work:

That took us to lunch, which was catered by Three Bananas. After the break, we reconvened to talk about the City of Edmonton’s approach, and about a potential data catalogue. Devin Serink led the discussion, which at times got very intense! People have strong feelings about how a catalogue for data should work. I’m not sure we came to a decision, but I think the general feedback was that both a data catalogue and an app catalogue are necessary, but that the City of Edmonton doesn’t necessarily need to create and host both.

Throughout the day we had flip chart sheets on the wall to capture opportunities, desired data sets, and anything else we didn’t have time to discuss. I think all of those, including the principles that each group came up with, will be typed up and shared sometime soon. Devin documented some of the day’s work on Prezi.

Open Data WorkshopOpen Data Workshop

It was great to have a focused discussion on open data at the City of Edmonton, but there’s still a lot to be done! There were a number of times during the day that we could have broken off into another sub-discussion, so there’s probably still a lot more input the City could gather. The report back to Council still needs to be written and presented. And of course, we need to start releasing some data sets. Still, I’m grateful that we have a supportive Councillor (and potentially more than one) and an engaged and open City Administration to make it happen.

Thanks to the City of Edmonton IT department for hosting the workshop, and especially to James Rugge-Price, Devin, and Jacob Modayil for making it happen! I’m really looking forward to the next steps.

You can see the rest of my photos here. Stay tuned to the Open Data page on the City website and to the #yegdata hashtag on Twitter for updates.