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Wednesday October 22, 2014

City Council Set to Vote on Open Data Law Today

New York City Department of Information Techno...

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NY’s City Council is expected to vote today on a bill requiring city agencies to provide data online in a machine-readable format thorough a single city portal.  NY Councilwoman Gale Brewer is the bill’s chief sponsor. She told TechPresident that the Mayor’s office has made some city data available, but the bill requires data across all agencies be public and searchable.

A lot of agency data is publicly available only in unsearchable PDFs. The proposed legislation calls for the city’s Dept. of Information Technology and Telecommunications to create a technical standards manual guiding the agencies through the process of publishing machine-readable data on the web. DoITT will also have to keep current with open standards.

Stephen Romalewski, director of the CUNY Mapping Service at CUNY’s Graduate Center, said that the city has been negotiating the issue for three years and that an earlier version of the bill had a more visionary approach.

He said advisory groups had called for a “chief data officer” but that didn’t make it into the bill. The city has a chief digital officer, Rachel Sterne, who focuses mainly on the city’s social media initiatives. But Chicago has a chief data officer working with city agencies, guiding them through large data releases.

While full conversion isn’t mandatory until 2018, city agencies have to comply with interim deadlines. They will report what data sets are available within the first 18 months and submit a compliance report every two years thereafter. DoITT will also solicit feedback from about the data’s usability.

There is no penalty for not complying, but Brewer says public feedback is a powerful tool. “It’s a little bit of an honor system, but New Yorkers are going to scream and yell if something isn’t right, and then the Mayor’s office will have to take the appropriate action,” she told TechPresident.

TechPresident