Opening & Publishing Data

How accessible is your data? Proprietary: can be any format, but with confidential information Machine Readable: CSV, XML & RDF should be your best bets

Prioritising Data Release Where should you start? We suggest starting small: focusing on a few key datasets for your initial release and ensuring that there is a sustainable publishing process in place, rather than doing a huge one-time data dump that will be hard to keep up to date.

Eighteen recommended Datasets Code for America, in collaboration with the Sunlight Foundation and Open Knowledge Foundation, has identified eighteen of the most important datasets that we recommend every municipality to publish. Of course, you might not be ready to release all of these right away, but it’s a good place to start. View the full list here:

Other ways to prioritise Here are some other ways to identify high-priority datasets to release.

  1. Start with your goals: First of all, you should return to the goals you outlined for your open data initiative. Which datasets will be most conducive to achieving your goals?
  2. Look for low-hanging fruit: What data sets would be easiest to release? Perhaps some departments already publish certain data online (as PDFs, shapefiles, spreadsheets, or other formats) that would be easy to aggregate in the open data catalog.
  3. Quick wins: There are many free, open-source apps that are built to use open municipal data. By prioritising the release of data sets that can be used by these existing apps, you can demonstrate the immediate tangible benefits of open data to citizens and city staff. For example, by publishing the location of storm drains or fire hydrants in your city, you can fairly easily stand up the Adopta application, making it simple for the average citizen to use and consume that data in a way that’s relevant to them.
  4. Look for existing demand: Examine city website traffic and public records requests to see what data is most often sought out by the public. By making the most-often requested datasets easily available in an open format, you can satisfy public demand and alleviate burdens on departments who frequently have to supply the same information over and over again.
  5. Ask the public what they want: The public, in particular your local civic hacker community, likely has ideas about what data would be the most valuable and useful to them. Invite citizens to suggest data sets for publication by conducting a survey or requesting input via social media. This in no way obligates you to publish the requested data, but it can be useful information when deciding what data to prioritise.
  6. Take cues from other cities: Many US municipalities, large and small, have launched open data catalogs over the last few years. Take a look at their open data catalogs to see what the most viewed or most downloaded of their data sets are.