Photo credit: Greg Pearson
Baltimore appears positioned to take advantage of its open data initiative this year. At least, that was the feeling communicated in the “lightning talk” given by city CIO Chris Tonjes on Friday at this weekend’s unWIREd unconference.
“We haven’t stopped our commitment to open data,” Tonjes said. “We just need to take a small step back and regroup.”
Rallying the Mayor’s Office of Information Technology around civic data is one of Tonjes’ priorities. As Technically Baltimore reported earlier this month, Tonjes said noticeable progress on beefing up the Open Baltimore portal would take place “definitely within 90 days.”
“There are more obstacles than one might think to that consistent and continuously updated and filled with rich data sets,” Tonjes said in an interview with Technically Baltimore in July. “The problem is once you do something like [Open Baltimore], people expect more and more, and if you have to turn your attention away from it even for something that’s really pressing, the community gets disappointed.”
At Friday’s event, Tonjes also spoke about alleviating Baltimore’s digital divide. One idea he mentioned was creating an overbuild of the existing Inter-County Broadband Network, something that could provide high-speed Internet access to residents currently without it.
Between 200 and 400 “out of every 1,000 Baltimore households were using a minimum level of broadband service at the end of 2008—compared with a range of 600 to 800 out of every 1,000 households in New York and Boston,” reported the Baltimore Sun in 2010.
Tonjes said the foundation of such an overbuild could be a public-private partnership—perhaps like the one the city formed when trying to lure Google and its high-speed fiber network to town—that would create a municipal WiFi network.
Tonjes told Technically Baltimore in July that MOIT is working on a Mayor’s Innovation Fund grant, $2 million potentially put toward that overbuild effort.
“In the future, that could be the basis for point-to-point wireless,” said Tonjes. “People could tap into that and [it could] be a way of addressing what’s probably a pretty profound digital divide.”
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