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City of Ottawa Website Expands Under Open-Data Policy
Source: Ottawa Citizen (www.ottawacitizen.com)
Source Date: Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Focus: Institution and HR Management
Country: Canada
Created: Oct 18, 2011

Information concerning public health, cycling and Ottawa’s 311 service is among data that are being sought or that should be posted soon to the city’s website, council’s IT subcommittee heard on Monday.

There are 42 data sets currently available on the city’s website for public use, showing the locations of everything from needle drop boxes and parks to splash pads and the transit schedule.

Recent additions include bike paths, recreation guides, proposed roadways and drinking water test results, city tech staff told subcommittee members during an update on efforts to provide more of the city’s data to the public after an open data initiative was launched last year.

An open-data policy is centred on the idea that certain city-collected and managed data should be readily available to anyone, in a “machine-readable” format, without copyright restrictions, patents or other controls on its use. Advocates say open-data policies increase government transparency and make it simpler for independent developers to make interesting and helpful applications.

Rob Giggey of the city’s information technology services department said a file showing public-access defibrillator locations should be on the city website soon, and staff are working on posting more data in areas such as culture, the environment and traffic.

Staff have also been working with other departments to gain access to cycling-related data sets such as maps, bicycle counts and accident reports, he said. Some of the other potential information to be posted includes health clinic locations and library data, Giggey said.

Staff also said they intend to hold an app competition next year, similar to one launched when the city started the open-data initiative.

Ottawa Public Library staff also provided an update on their technology improvements, which are aimed at streamlining services and creating a “virtual branch” through which library users can access the same services that are available in a building. The library’s website saw more than 12 million hits in 2010 and reached that number this year by the end of September, the subcommittee heard.

Use of e-books is also rising rapidly. There were 86,523 e-books and audiobooks downloaded last year, and 160,057 downloaded as of the end of September, staff said.

Staff say they’re also working on making it possible to pay fines through the website and using technology to simplify checking books in and out.

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