City Data to the Masses

A growing number of cities are opening up public data streams to computer developers. Some say the move will improve civic discourse, but the nascent trend is still developing.
December 8, 2009, 10am PST | Nate Berg
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Various websites and mobile applications are using and displaying public data in new ways. How those developments will affect urban governance is still playing out.

"Advocates of these open-data efforts say they can help citizens figure out what is going on in their backyards and judge how their government is performing.

But programmers have had trouble getting their hands on some data. And some activists and software developers wonder whether historically reticent governments will release data that exposes problems or only information that makes them look good.

It is too early to say whether releasing city data will actually make civil servants more accountable, but it can clearly be useful. Even data about mundane things like public transit and traffic can improve people's lives when it is packaged and customized in an accessible way - a situation that governments themselves may not be equipped to realize."

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Published on Monday, December 7, 2009 in The New York Times
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