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Open data in Wilmington has been a hot topic this month

The Economic Development office, City Council and Open Data Delaware are each pushing the movement forward in their own ways.

Wilmington's abuzz about it. Could a new bill set it back? (Photo by Flickr user justgrimes, used under a Creative Commons license)

As we noted in November, there’s an open data movement afoot in Delaware. In just a month, the campaign for more transparency has grown even stronger: the Wilmington Office for Economic Development, City Council and the Open Data Delaware Meetup have all begun pushing the movement forward.
The director of Wilmington’s Economic Development office, Jeff Flynn, said the office purchased the domain the other week.
“Wilmington is ready for open data,” he said.
So far, the site shows three datasets:

  • Real-time train statuses at the Wilmington train station
  • Wilmington traffic
  • Real estate transactions

Flynn said that the beta site, a portal set up by Tapp Network, is the product of a year’s worth of talks about how to bring open data to Wilmington. This time next year, he said he hopes to have at least 10 data sets from the city on the site. “I’m hoping to see APIs and an active open-data Wilmington community that includes ongoing dialogue between the hackers and the city as well as Open Data Delaware,” he told
All data that goes up on the site, he said, will be mutually decided upon between city departments. He expects the next data sets to go up will be related to public works planning, licenses and inspection.
“The mayor is very supportive of it, in solidarity with City Council,” Flynn said.
That may be so, but sharing data is proving to be a sticking point between the mayor and City Council this month. The two disagree on making data about the city’s police available to the State, which is a stipulation for receiving $1.5 million to increase police patrols in high-crime areas.
City Council passed a resolution earlier this month asking Wilmington Mayor Dennis Williams and Police Chief Bobby Cummings to consider sending the data, according to a release.
“The Wilmington City Council implores the mayor and police chief to improve public safety, reduce violent crime and embrace cooperation with the State by immediately providing the police staffing data the State is seeking,” part of the resolution said.
The morning after the resolution was passed, Mayor Williams told Delaware Public Media he’s not jazzed about doing that.
“I’m concerned about the restrictions and constraints put on us,” he told the news outlet. “To the point where we have to open up everything in the police department and give it to the General Assembly, and give it to the Attorney General’s office. That’s micromanaging, and you know, when the camel starts sniffing under the tent, the camel walks in the tent.”
Meanwhile, Open Data Delaware is holding a hack night Meetup from 6-9 p.m. Dec. 29 at Zip Code Wilmington.
It’ll be a chance to work on open data projects and share ideas, according to the event information. Organizer Ryan Harrington has said he’d like to see more data from the city available to the public so that Wilmington can make more progress through transparency.
Flynn noted that open data will be vital to the city. “Open data is an important element to help build our tech community, which is in turn important to the economic health of the city,” he said. “For me, having a robust open data community indirectly leads to private investment, creation of jobs and additional energy into the tech startup scene.”

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