How Two Cities Are Enhancing Open Data’s Reach

As governments move to share more troves of digital data, civic innovators in Chicago and New York are working to ensure public use fulfills open data’s promise.

Imagine a city where a parents’ committee can parse speeding ticket data with crime statistics, to map the safest routes for students to bike to school. Consider a neighborhood where a local business owner can find out pedestrian density patterns to identify the most productive hours to staff her business – increasing her shop’s efficiency and ability to grow.

Across the United States, community groups and individuals are creating solutions just like these, powered by open data.

For nearly a decade, the guiding principle of the open data movement – that government agencies should freely share comprehensive and timely data with the public – has inspired the creation of open data policies and portals in 40 states and more than 48 cities and counties nationwide. At the national level,, the U.S.’s national open data portal launched in 2009, has grown from hosting 47 datasets to more than 192,000 today.

Datasets like these provide public access to a vast array of hyper-local information, ranging from near-real-time crime reports and air quality readings, to traffic patterns and school test performance. With training and purpose-built tools, people can use this data to develop civic technology that enhances their access to high-quality education, transportation and jobs.

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