In the past few years we’ve seen a huge shift in the way governments publish information. More and more governments are proactively releasing information as raw open data rather than simply putting out reports or responding to requests for information. This has enabled all sorts of great tools like the ones that help us find transportation or the ones that let us track the spending and performance of our government. Unfortunately, somewhere in this new wave of open data we forgot some of the most fundamental information about our government, the basic “who”, “what”, “when”, and “where”.

NYC, We Want #eHailApps!

New York City wants to launch a pilot program for “e-Hailing” NYC taxis. With E-hailing, you use your smartphone to virtually hail a nearby cab, then pay using a pre-stored credit card.  It’s awesome, and lots of other cities are already up and running with it.  

Unfortunately, NYC is on the brink of losing this opportunity.  A group of car service companies, in a misguided attempt to protect their own businesses at the expense of the convenience of New Yorkers and visitors alike, is suing the city to block the pilot program.

E-hailing is already part of the transportation experience in London, Dublin, Toronto, Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco, among others. Drivers and passengers in those towns have instantly adopted it as the new norm, and love it for its convenience the boost it gives the taxi industry. They will never look back. Without it, New Yorkers will feel like second class global citizens.

E-Hail apps like Hailo, Flywheel, and Uber have proven they will improve the livelihood of taxi drivers and the quality of life for their customers, and will do the same for New Yorkers.

Let’s not miss this opportunity. Let’s tell NYC, the taxi industry and the courts that we want NYC’s transportation network to be world class, and that e-Hailing is a critical step on that path.

Reblog this and Sign the damn petition!

Compiling information in a central location is the first step toward understanding the size and scope of the data that is in the city’s possession. “It’s the equivalent of going to a library, and know you have a card catalog you can go to,” Noel Hidalgo, executive director of the Open NY Forum, a civic data meetup group that was part of the coalition of non-profits that advocated for the law.

In the meantime, some omissions from the new lode are glaring. For example, precinct-level crime data, released on a weekly basis by the NYPD, does not appear to be housed in the portal. The NYPD currently hosts that information on its own website, and makes it available only in PDF format, which makes it nearly impossible to extract and use the data to track crime trends and patterns.

Local Law 11 requires agencies to convert data posted on the web portal to a format that can be used for other purposes, like building applications and running analyses. “Not having it in machine-readable format is almost a disservice, or it’s creating an obtuse government,” said Hidalgo. “Willingly creating data that is not easily consumed by computers, you’re not in 21st century.”

It’s a baby step in the right direction, but it’s a pretty big baby step,” said Noel Hidalgo, executive director of the Open NY Forum and Code for America’s local program manager. “You cannot reinvent the architecture and the practices of government within a year.

Happy birthday NYC Open Data Law!!!

The signing of Local Law 11 of 2012

Friends,

One year ago, you made history. One year ago, we got NYC’s Open Data law passed and gave this nation a new gold standard in government transparency.

By opening up and making the City’s data machine readable, the we will be able to build better interfaces and help grow this city into the 21st Century. Together, we will increase the effectiveness of government services and an equitable City for the future.

Today, we stand on the steps of City Hall and look to the future of municipal open data. Over the next few years, it is up to us, the developers, designers, the doers, and the thinkers to be a true partner in open government. It is up to us to be the Government for the people by the people.

I look forward to seeing you on the steps of City Hall or in Cobble Hill for our evening birthday party.

Happy Birthday Local Law 11 of 2012! Here’s to a new era in Open Government.