Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, May 19, 2007

OA to government data helps citizens

Jon Udell, Motivation, context, and citizen analysis of government data, Jon Udell's blog, May 18, 2007. 

Matt McAlister heard “crackling firearms” in his San Francisco neighborhood and wrote a wonderful essay on a theme that was central to my keynote talk last week at the GOVIS conference: how citizens can and will work with governments to diagnose social problems and develop solutions. When the District of Columbia’s DCStat program rolled out last summer, I was delighted by the forward thinking involved. Publishing the city’s operational data directly to the web, for everyone to see and analyze, with the explicit goal of making the delivery of government services transparent and accountable, was and is an astonishingly bold move. And as Matt found when investigating crime in his neighborhood, it’s still part of the unevenly distributed future:

I then found the official San Francisco Police Department Crime Map. Of course, the data is wrapped in their own heavy-handed user interface and unavailable in common shareable web data formats.

Access to data is good, and access to data in useful formats is better, but these are only the first steps. We need to make interpretations of the data, compare and discuss those interpretations, and use them to inform policy advocacy....

Here’s another glimpse of what’s to come: I took a snapshot of the DC crime data, uploaded it to Dabble DB, built a view of burglary by district and neighborhood, and published it at this public URL. There are two key points here. First, discussion can attach to (and will be discoverable in relation to) that URL. Second, the data behind the view is also available at that URL, in a variety of useful formats, so alternate views can be produced, pointed to, and discussed....

UpdateCitizen Crime Watch builds on McAlister's essay and Udell's blog post to argue that OA to geocoded crime data would help citizens help police reduce crime in New Orleans.