Making public data more public

May 20, 2008

Tony Arnold reports on Mayor Daley's reaction to homicide stats released by the Chicago Police Department. Daley contends that the stats, which show a 9% increase over last year, are misleading because of certain incidents occurring with multiple deaths (therefore, it's not the violence that has grown, only the deaths per violent incident). Anyway, that squabble aside, this got me thinking about public access to government data. I recently had a chance to sit and talk with some folks over at Everyblock Chicago about their dealings with municipal governments. Everyblock currently posts a whole lot of public information like crime data, building permits, and property transfers (just to name a few), but they still encounter some local officials reluctant (sometimes even suspicious) of making more feeds of data available. One of their team members, Dan O'Neil, posted about this issue on the Everyblock blog, and he places their efforts in the larger context of organizations working for better and more open governments. When I first saw Everyblock, I was most impressed by the geographic organization of local information - I could see what was happening on my block right now. Now I am thinking that working for more openness among municipalities may be where the true value resides.