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Apr. 27, 2012 7:01 am

10 takeaways from new City of Philadelphia Open Data Policy

As first reported by Technically Philly, Mayor Nutter signed yesterday an Executive Order pledging greater transparency through data releases. Executive Orders are good at making clear top-level goals, but the hard work is left to be implemented: namely entrenching departmental workflows to ensure its objectives. Read the full text of the Executive Order here, but […]

Michael Nutter in May 2007 celebrating a primary election victory. Photo lovingly stolen from PHLMetropolis.com.

As first reported by Technically Philly, Mayor Nutter signed yesterday an Executive Order pledging greater transparency through data releases.

Executive Orders are good at making clear top-level goals, but the hard work is left to be implemented: namely entrenching departmental workflows to ensure its objectives.

Read the full text of the Executive Order here, but first, here are 10 items that caught Technically Philly’s attention.

(Also, NBC 10 coverage here, Metro coverage here and the official press release here.)

  1. “City data sets should be published and made available via an Open Data Portal” — Considering OpenDataPhilly.org is still looking for a permanent home, it is a natural candidate to fill that role, though the platform’s independence to a private steward — GIS shop Azavea — has likely helped it remain agile. Will the administration be willing to focus on workflow and data accuracy and give up dissemination? Should it? Most peer cities have data catalogs owned by the local municipal government, not private firms, but it’s not necessarily clear that’s a bad thing.
  2. This will “require the dedication of a new position, of Chief Data Officer” — Dedicated internal staff resources are good, but for an effort focused on transparency, there are no shortage of examples of government coming up short when checking in on itself. The City Controller’s office has some independence and currently-seated Alan Butkovitz makes lots of noise, though it has been called politically motivated and can change dramatically with a given election. It should also be noted that the nearby City of Baltimore has gone through turmoil surrounding its similarly named Chief Digital Officer.
  3. The Mayor and the Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) will establish an Open Data Working Group — That sounds like a slice of OpenAccessPhilly: will it live on?
  4. Within 90 days the administration pledges to hire a Chief Data Officer — Though the deadline may seem arbitrary and the position’s role could be challenged, the administration deserves credit for giving a firm deadline: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 by our count.
  5. Within 120 days from the Effective Date of this Order, the Mayor shall appoint a Data Governance Advisory Board — How serious will the board be taken and how much independence will they have? That’s to be determined. Oh, and the deadline: Friday, August 24, 2012, by our count.
  6. Within six months, the board will publish a city-wide Open Government Plan — Top-level strategy is valuable, though pragmatism and influence will be key in creating recommendations bold enough to warrant excitement but practical enough to be implemented in a city government with more than 22,000 employees. Both of these efforts call for public comment, which deserves recognition. Deadline: October 2012.
  7. Within 90 days of the Chief Data Officer’s hiring, he or she will launch an Open Data Portal — The Executive Order specifically references the ability to use an existing tool. The city should likely have its own repository of its data, but there is value in an outside organization pushing on these efforts from afar with some independence.
  8. Within 120 days of the Effective Date of this Order, the City Solicitor has to review these efforts — That’s the city’s lawyer and this is an absolutely necessary step (and serious hurdle for bold work). The detail should be applauded.
  9. Each department must create a catalog of its open information — This is a clear call to action to department heads from the Mayor and, if this order has teeth, will be among its first, most tangible successes.
  10. The data must be in an ‘open format’ — What specifically that means isn’t necessarily clear but it’s reference to flexibility allows for a strong, well-informed board to push for scalable solutions like API formats (or that platform’s successor).
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Christopher Wink

Christopher Wink is a cofounder and Editorial Director of Technical.ly, the local technology news network. Previously, Wink worked for a homeless advocacy nonprofit and was a freelance reporter for a variety of publications. He writes regularly about news innovation and best business practices on his personal blog here. The bicycle commuter loves cities, urban politics and squabbling about neighborhood boundaries.

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Comments

  1. Open Data Policy: Mayor Nutter to sign Executive Order pledging data releases — Technically Philly / May 1, 2012

    [...] Updated: Read the full-text of the Executive Order and read insight on the effort here. [...]

  2. City Hall is close to naming its first Chief Data Officer, has two final candidates — Technically Philly / July 31, 2012

    [...] Mayor Michael Nutter signed an Executive Order in April promising to make government data more accessible. Technically Philly outlined the major deadlines and action items from the policy, which you can see here. [...]

  3. Mark Headd is Philadelphia’s first Chief Data Officer — Technically Philly / August 8, 2012

    [...] have more information on the hire and Headd’s plans soon. Next up for the city on its data path is to pull together a governance [...]

  4. Mark Headd: first ever City of Philadelphia Chief Data Officer — Technically Philly / August 13, 2012

    [...] The details  – start date, staff support, etc. — are still fuzzy about his hire, but here’s what else Headd has planned for his new position (conveniently, he has a list of goals and deadlines to hit, as laid out by the city’s Open Data Policy): [...]

  5. Open Access Philly group sends Nutter letter urging administration to use existing open data resources — Technically Philly / August 14, 2012

    [...] community asked the city to take advantage of the existing open data resources when it comes to creating the city’s new Open Data Portal. With the new city Open Data Executive Order, it might seem that the OpenAccessPhilly group is [...]

  6. Mark Headd is your new Chief Data Officer: Philadelphia magazine « Christopher Wink / October 12, 2012

    [...] perspective considered an unusually ideal city hire. As the Nutter administration moves through its newly enacted Open Data Policy, will Headd become a driving force behind its authenticity or is he due to be outmatched by the [...]

  7. Phila.gov must be fully compatible with more web browsers than Internet Explorer: new Bill Green legislation — Technically Philly / October 12, 2012

    [...] Since championing paperless government early in his council career and introducing in April 2011 a wide-ranging government transparency plan, neither of which found much traction in council, Green has seen Mayor Nutter land an Open Data Executive Order. [...]

  8. State of open data in Philly: Read the open government plan, and more on the city’s open data policy progress — Technically Philly / December 17, 2012

    [...] April, Mayor Michael Nutter signed an open data executive order that laid out the city’s goals for becoming more transparent through more data releases. More than half a year later, the city has [...]

  9. Philly tech scene 2012: 5 biggest stories — Technically Philly / January 2, 2013

    [...] has arrived and it looks like it’s here to stay. Following Mayor Michael Nutter‘s signing of the open data executive order during Philly Tech Week last spring, the big announcements kept coming: Philly got Code for [...]

  10. City of Philadelphia releases police complaint data, API — Technically Philly / January 28, 2013

    [...] city agency (despite City Council’s recent efforts to make it one), suggesting that the Mayor’s Open Data Executive Order is reaching a broader audience than its immediate city [...]

  11. City of Philadelphia releases police complaint data, API | Local Philadelphia News Aggregator / January 28, 2013

    [...] City Council’s recent efforts t&#959 m&#1072k&#1077 &#1110t one), suggesting th&#1072t th&#1077 Mayor’s Open Data Executive Order &#1110&#1109 reaching a broader audience th&#1072n &#1110t&#1109 immediate city [...]

  12. Police Advisory Commission releases its police complaint data, API | Local Philadelphia News Aggregator / January 29, 2013

    [...] City Council’s recent efforts t&#959 m&#1072k&#1077 &#1110t one), suggesting th&#1072t th&#1077 Mayor’s Open Data Executive Order &#1110&#1109 reaching a broader audience th&#1072n &#1110t&#1109 immediate city [...]

  13. School District of Philadelphia releases data on enrollment, test scores, and more — Technically Philly / February 8, 2013

    [...] because the School District is not a city agency and technically doesn’t have to follow the Mayor’s Open Data Executive Order. The District also has representatives in the city’s Open Data Working Group, Chief Data [...]

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