Open data: The value of openness

When Bing Thom Architects set out to investigate the effects of rising sea levels in Vancouver, the firm decided to gather crucial information about the shoreline from the city’s open data web portal. The study ultimately painted a sobering view of the potential impact of climate change: more than $25-billion in Vancouver real estate would be “negatively affected” by a rise in the sea level in the 21st century, excluding infrastructure such as roads, sewers, and electrical facilities. But the research also underscored the value of open government data: information that is collected by government for its own purpose and made available to the public for its own use.

Open data is essentially information that is free for anyone to use, reuse and redistribute. Proponents of making government data available to the public identify two main benefits: First, innovators of all kinds can use the information to build useful applications and services, and second, it promotes government transparency and accountability and encourages citizen participation in public policy debates. As Andy Yan, the urban planner involved in the Vancouver project observes, “when you have this type of transparency and governments release their databases to the public, you can have these kinds of discussions about public policy out in the open instead of being captured in little clubhouses.”

Read More

This story was originally published in the National magazine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *