UPDATE: Baltimore IS working on an open data portal
UPDATE: The previous headline of this post was "Baltimore is CRAZY for not opening up its data and encouraging app development (cc: Mayor Rawlings-Blake)." But I've gotten word from the mayor's office this afternoon that, based on citizen feedback, the city IS indeed working on an open-data portal for city data. So take everything I say below as background on the topic. Hooray Baltimore!
What apps would you like to see for Baltimore?
Did you know that Washington DC has a contest called "Apps for Democracy," which awards prizes who use data from DC government to build useful Web, mobile and Facebook apps? The contest yielded dozens of apps and saved the city money.
The folks who run it are sharing how they did it with the world. Peter Corbett, founder of iStrategy Labs in D.C., which created the contest, said it's been adopted in about 20 places around the world.
Mike Brenner thinks so. Mike is a web developer and runs the new blog, Startup Baltimore. He's put out a call to do a similar "Apps for Democracy" contest in Baltimore.
Our political and business leaders should take Brenner's call-to-arms seriously. From Brenner's blog post:
Other cities caught wind of this incredible venture and started planning their own versions of the open-data app contest. New York City and its mayor Michael Bloomberg launched NYC BigApps, powered by the NYC.gov Data Mine. It initially cost the city $20,000 and returned 85 apps with an estimated value of return of $4.25 million. Again, an almost incalculable ROI of 21,150%. California has recently launched a similar statewide competition dubbing it as “The Great Data Gold Rush”. One of the most noteworthy outcomes of California’s open-data initiative has been an app that uses San Francisco’s 311 API to create service requests from Twitter via TweetMy311.org.
What does Baltimore need to get started? First, our city government needs to make a wide range of data publicly available, so that developers can tap into it. Washington DC did it with their data catalog.
Corbett said that the technology is relatively easy to set up. And he pointed out that Baltimore was one of the first cities in the country pioneer a "Comstat"-type system of data reporting for its police department and other government agencies, under Mayor Martin O'Malley.
The data is there -- we just need to turn it on for public access.
"I don't know why the city wouldn't want to publish data openly in the way that DC does," Corbett told me. "It really shouldn't be a political issue. Citizens and hackers aren't making government officials look bad. They're building apps to help citizens."
What do you think? Do you support Baltimore City's opening of public data feeds for the development of Web and mobile apps for citizens?
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