OpenDataRace Begins in Philadelphia

OpenData Race

Several months ago, with the unveiling of the OpenDataPhilly website, the City of Philadelphia joined the growing fraternity of cities across the country and around the world to release municipal data sets in open, developer friendly formats. But the City of Brotherly Love did things a bit differently than most of it’s contemporaries.

The city actively partnered with outside parties, private firms, not-for-profits and universities to help set the direction of the city’s open data efforts. The OpenDataPhilly website itself, although it’s brimming with data collected and maintained by the city, was developed by the geospatial and civic application firm Azavea, and is not hosted or operated by the city.  The website, and the larger open data effort in Philadelphia, operates under the stewardship of a group made up of both public sector and private sector partners.

This unique partnership has raised innovative opportunities for collaboration.  This is clearly evident in the latest efforts by the OpenDataPhilly team to solicit ideas from those in and around Philadelphia about the specific data sets that should be opened up by the city, formatted for developers and researchers and released through the OpenDataPhilly site.

Last week, the OpenDataPhilly team, in partnership with Azavea, NPower Pennsylvania, Technically Philly and the William Penn Foundation launched the OpenData Race.

The OpenData Race is a competition open to not-for-profits that want to obtain data from the City of Philadelphia to further their missions and to better serve their constituencies.  It calls on not-for-profits to nominate data that is not currently available through the OpenDataPhilly site or through other sources to be released by the city in an open format.  The top nominations will receive cash prizes, and the OpenDataPhilly team will work with the City of Philadelphia to facilitate the release of the winning data sets.

This competition is a departure from the traditional kinds of contests that derive from municipal open data efforts, which typically take the form of hackathons or application building contests.  It builds on the idea behind the latest “Big Apps” competition in New York City – which asked competitors to name the kinds of open data apps they would like to see developed – by asking consumers of municipal data which data sets they would like to see opened up and released to the public.

Any not-for-profit can nominate a data set by registering with the OpenDataPhilly site and submitting a nomination before the deadline on September 29th.  The OpenDataPhilly team will also be working with the winners of the OpenData Race to facilitate events aimed at building civic applications that use the new data in early 2012.

The partnership in Philadelphia between city officials, not-for profits, private firms and universities has produced a unique atmosphere for the development of an open data movement.  With the launch of the OpenData Race in Philadelphia, the city and those that live and work there will now start to reap the benefits of this innovative partnership.

For more information on the OpenData Race, and to signup to nominate data, go to the OpenDataPhilly website.

About Mark Headd

Mark Headd is the former Chief Data Officer for the City of Philadelphia, serving as one of the first municipal Chief Data Officers in the United States, and was also Director of Government Relations at Code for America. He currently works with civic technologists and open data advocates as a Developer Evangelist for Accela, Inc. A coder and civic hacking veteran, he has worked as both a hands-on technologist and as a high-level policy advisor. Self taught in programming, he holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, and is a former adjunct instructor at the University of Delaware’s Institute for Public Administration teaching a course in electronic government.

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