City of Philadelphia Open Data Executive Order: report card 1 year later - Technical.ly Philly

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May 2, 2013 11:30 am

City of Philadelphia Open Data Executive Order: report card 1 year later

To commemorate the anniversary, the Nutter administration pointed to the release of 46 "high value data sets," which includes high-value crime data and an impressive property value assessment tool. For our commemoration, we wanted to check in on the progress.

Chief Data Officer Mark Headd speaking during Ignite Philly 11. Photo courtesy of P'unk Ave.

Updated: Thurs. May 2, 2013 @ 1:44pm: Included mention of existing city-agency-focused working group and, later, this tweet, updated a change in ownership of OpenDataPhilly.org

One year ago Friday, Mayor Nutter signed an Open Data Executive Order during Philly Tech Week presented by AT&T that outlined his administration’s goals for a more transparent and efficient government.

Read our 10 big takeaways from when the order was released.

To commemorate the anniversary, the Nutter administration pointed to the release of 46 “high value data sets,” which includes high-value crime data and an impressive property value assessment tool. For our commemoration, we wanted to check in on the progress.

Let’s look at the big deadlines from the Executive Order:

  1. “City data sets should be published and made available via an Open Data Portal”[YES] — The city is partnering on taking stewardship of OpenDataPhilly.org with over from AxisPhilly, which has had the helm since Azavea built it. Says Chief Data Officer Mark Headd: “We’re still in the process of signing a formal MOU — Law Department and AxisPhilly are working on that — but city departments have been instructed in both public documents and internal processes to have all open data releases listed there.”
  2. This will “require the dedication of a new position, of Chief Data Officer” [YES] — Among the safest, best respected moves in this space was the hiring of Mark Headd, a celebrated civic hacker with a long tenure in the technology space.
  3. The Mayor and the Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) will establish an Open Data Working Group [NO] — This group has not yet met, though Headd says a list of proposed members are going through the mayoral vetting and appointment process. Updated: There is an internal working group with representation from city departments, SEPTA, the school district, the PPA and others, but this is separate from the formal, vetted effort.
  4. Within 90 days the administration pledges to hire a Chief Data Officer [YES] — Headd was announced in this role in early August, not too far from the original Wednesday, July 25, 2012 deadline.
  5. Within 120 days from the Effective Date of this Order, the Mayor shall appoint a Data Governance Advisory Board [NO] — As noted above, this board has not been officially formed. The original deadline was Friday, August 24, 2012.
  6. Within six months, the board will publish a city-wide Open Government Plan [YES] — The first draft of this plan landed in December, a couple months passed its original October 2012 deadline. “We’ll start working on version 2.0 after th[is] anniversary,” Headd said.
  7. Within 90 days of the Chief Data Officer’s hiring, he or she will launch an Open Data Portal [YES] — This claim was always complicated, as OpenDataPhilly.org already existed. Tough ownership to the city isn’t yet fully realized, working with an existing option is likely a strength, not a loss.
  8. Within 120 days of the Effective Date of this Order, the City Solicitor has to review these efforts [YES] — This appears to have cleared.
  9. Each department must create a catalog of its open information [MAYBE] — This is partially cared for by the city’s release schedule, though some departments are not yet in step here. Check out the city’s pipeline here (that’s ph.ly/datapipeline) and cautions about timing here.
  10. The data must be in an ‘open format’ [MAYBE] — Originally we feared this phrase was somewhat vague and it may still be one shortcoming. The lack of digital-first workflow in many city departments will continue to complicate.

What other outcomes have we seen?

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  • Open Data Guidebook for city agencies to follow for the release of data
  • Open Data release schedule, though one wonders about all the data not included there.
  • The City’s Open Data plan has been open sourced on civic hacking mainstay GitHub, clearly with the fingerprints of Chief Data Officer Mark Headd.
  • OpenDataPhilly.org is being called a triumph, having been built by Azavea and conceived of by public-private OpenAccessPhilly. A press release on the anniversary reads: “Philadelphia is the only large City in the country with an official open data repository managed in collaboration with outside stakeholders.”

From the release: “Mayor Nutter signed Executive Order 12-1, which formally established the City’s open data policy, on April 26, 2012.”

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Christopher Wink

Christopher Wink is a cofounder and Editorial Director of Technical.ly, the local technology news network. In that capacity, he is a co-organizer of Philly Tech Week, Baltimore Innovation Week, Delaware Innovation Week and other events that bring smart people together. 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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