Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Appleton Open Data & Civic Hacking

One focus of civic hacking is doing interesting things with local government open data sets. If you aren't familiar with open data and didn't already read my earlier post, consider reading "What Are Open Government And Open Data?"

Some participants in the June 6th "DHMN Civic Hackathon/Appleton 2015" will likely be working on civic hacks that don't involve open data sets from the city of Appleton, Wisconsin, USA. But we do hope to have some developers and other civic hackers using the open data that's available for Appleton. As far as I know, the main (only?) open data from Appleton is the GIS data linked from the Appleton GIS Department's webpage:

  1. City Parcels -- City parcel polygons with owner and assessment information 
  2. Address Points -- Address points layer. An attempt was made to collect every known address within the City, to include unit/apartment number and parcel number. Each point is located on the structure containing the address 
  3. City Limits -- City corporate limits polygon
  4. Street Centerlines -- Street centerline line layer attributed with address ranges and known speed limits
  5. GTFS -- General Transit Feed Specification

If you know of any other open data sets from Appleton, please send Bob Waldron links to that data, bwaldron (at) gmail [dott] com.

Compared to all the data gathered by and generated by the city of Appleton, the above five data sets aren't much. One of the outcomes of the June 6th hackathon may be a list of data sets that would be useful to area residents if they became available as open data. The concept of open data is relatively new to Appleton and to northeast Wisconsin. In upcoming years there will be many opportunities to identify government data would be useful if made open. If you'd like to see more of Appleton's data be available in an open format, consider being a hackathon participant or in some other way showing how that open data would be useful or interesting.

As far as I know, Appleton doesn't have any formal policy regarding open data. Most cities in the US don't have an open data policy. Yet. Madison, WI, didn't used to have an open data policy either, but in 2012 they were one of the first cities in the country to formally adopt an open data ordinance, as described in "Soglin, others hail Madison's new open data policy" and "We Talk With Madison City Councilman Scott Resnick About Open Data." As the second article above explains,
"Resnick wrote the legislation for Madison to open up their public data so that developers could develop apps around it.  Resnick said that any record that can be requested by open record requests can be available via open data. Once he was able to get the data opened Madison went to work holding a Startup Weekend event to develop startups and apps surrounded by the data...Resnick is hoping the next step for Madison is to allow city API’s to go from “pushing the data to pulling the data”. When that’s available entrepreneurs will be able to create apps and startups for things like reporting a problem to a city."
Here's a link to the Madison open data webpage. And here are more links if you're interested in what open data some other US cities provide:
Philadelphia, PA 
Grand Rapids, MI 
Portland, OR 
Providence, RI
The article "Open Data Policies in State and Local Government" gives a pretty good look at government open data in the US.

Regarding the three counties in which Appleton is located, they appear to be in pretty much the same situation as the city -- not much in the way of open data. Another opportunity.

The US federal government has an official policy of encouraging open data in government, as discussed at Project Open Data and on the post "U.S. Federal Open Data Policy." The central US federal open data website is Data.gov.

If you'd like to work on civic hacks with others using Appleton open data, consider participating in our civic hackathon on June 6, 2015. (Although I encourage you to start learning more about civic hacking and playing with open data before June 6.)

And if you'd like to see more Appleton government public data made available as open data sets, please participate in the hackathon to figure out what data streams would be useful or build civic hacks that show the benefit of that data being open.

If you're not already registered for the DHMN Civic Hackathon/Appleton 2015, please consider doing so TODAY...


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