Open Data is an Untapped Resource for Cities, According to New Handbook By National League of Cities

press release
press release

Washington, DC - The capture and analysis of data is transforming the 21st Century. As society becomes more data driven, data has the ability to drive the bottom line for private companies and help the public sector to define where and how services can best be delivered. In City Open Data Policies: Learning by Doing, the National League of Cities identifies how cities can take advantage of the opportunities presented by open data initiatives.

"Open data is a lens of transparency and brings the hopes of more efficiency and economic development opportunities within our nation's cities," said Clarence Anthony, CEO and Executive Director of NLC. "Through this handbook and NLC's City of the Future initiative, we are working to provide cities with not only the best practices but the next practices as they navigate the new economy."

The report will help guide the efforts of cities exploring the topic by providing insight on the approaches and challenges other cities have faced. In the handbook, NLC offers recommendations to cities interested in opening their data on how to create the necessary framework for a successful open data initiative around six key areas:

  • Leadership: Political support stands out as one of the key requirements to implementing a successful open data project. 
  • Appropriate Legislation: Enacting legislation or formal policies is a crucial step toward ensuring the growth and sustainability of open data portals. 
  • Funding: Open data initiatives do not require high levels of funding. It is, however, important that the programs have their own budget line items where resources are specifically allocated. 
  • Technical Approach: Leading U.S. cities rely on commercial platforms that facilitate the implementation of open data initiatives, provide technical expertise, and ensure 24/7 customer support, often at a lower cost than providing these services in-house. 
  • Stakeholder Involvement: Open data is a two-way process. It is, therefore, essential to encourage participation and engagement among multiple stakeholders including: community members; non-profits; universities; the press; businesses; city departments; and other levels of government. Many cities adopt a flexible, and usually informal, approach to interact with the stakeholders. 
  • Measuring Success: Developing evaluation tools should be an integral part of any future open data policies.

"Increasingly data defines who we are, what we do, where we go and how we get there," said Brooks Rainwater, Director of NLC's Center for City Solutions and Applied Research. "As with a whole range of leading issues, cities are at the vanguard of this shifting environment. Through increased measurement, analysis, and engagement, open data will further solidify the centrality of cities in this urban century."

The report looked at five cities and their efforts around open data. The five cities are:

  • Chicago
  • Austin
  • Seattle
  • Boston 
  • Amsterdam

Open data is an untapped resource for cities and will only grow in the future. It creates opportunities by developing a portal into the operations and functions of government that anyone can utilize. Open data policies will create efficiencies, promote transparency and support economic development.

The National League of Cities (NLC) is dedicated to helping city leaders build better communities. NLC is a resource and advocate for 19,000 cities, towns and villages, representing more than 218 million Americans.

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