News / Edmonton

Edmonton Open Data Catalogue awarded but could do more say advocates

The Open Data Catalogue includes a wide variety of data sets including this one, which shows all of the traffic disruptions in the city.

Supplied: City of Edmonton

The Open Data Catalogue includes a wide variety of data sets including this one, which shows all of the traffic disruptions in the city.

Edmonton is being applauded for transparency after being ranked atop Public Sector Digest’s Open Cities Index for 2015, beating out 33 Canadian municipalities.

The Index measures “the readiness, implementation, and impact of the participating cities' open data initiatives,” according to the website.

Edmonton launched its online open data catalogue in early 2010, making data sets on everything from indigenous place names to sandbox locations available to the public (though traffic disruptions are the most popular data by a significant margin).

In 2014, the city created the Open City Initiative, a strategy to operate even more transparently.

“The big push is to get citizens involved in the business of running the city of Edmonton,” said Wendy Gnenz, director of the Open City Initiative.

Some say it needs to go further.

Matt Dance, a geographer and open data advocate, said he frequently consults data to get a better idea of what the government's doing.

He said the current system is an “awesome start,” but says the city still has to make more controversial data available to the public.

As part of his research on gentrification, Dance uses neighbourhood crime data. The city provided a map of incidents but none of the data behind it was—meaning he couldn’t use dig any deeper into the information or incorporate it into his own research.

“If city council is using data to inform policy, citizens should have access to the same data,” Dance said.

Gnenz said that while all data is open by default, unless there’s a legal or privacy issue, not all departments have the same open data policy.

The city is working with individual departments, like the police, as well as regional partners, to help them develop open data polices more in line with the city, she added. 

The city is also working on making the data more accessible—a rebranded and more user-friendly portal launches Tuesday.

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