PediaCities, as an open-data company, was happy to join others from the civic hacking community in New York City to testify at a city council hearing about DoITT’s administration of the New York City Open Data Law. Our product manager, Nathan Storey, delivered the following testimony at a the hearing this afternoon:
Testimony in support of T2013-7110
Honorable Chairperson, I am Nathan Storey, Product Manager for PediaCities.com, an encyclopedia of city data. I am also a member of BetaNYC, a Code for America Brigade for New York City. I strongly support the City’s Open Data efforts, and acknowledge that the City has made great progress thus far. But I know we must do more to realize the full economic potential of open data.
In a study released just last month, the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that Open Data has the potential to unlock $3-$5 trillion dollars in economic value, per year, in the US alone. In New York, much focus has been placed on using data contests known as hackathons to unlock that potential. Hackathon are intended to spur the creation of projects that turn into viable businesses. And while that is certainly the case with PediaCities, our company and my job are the exception. To create more open data jobs we need stronger ongoing partnerships between the producers and users of the city’s data.
First, we need agencies to replace closed internal data systems with open data platforms. This would create open data jobs, of course, but it would also create better feedback loops to correct errors, allow for more efficient identification of gaps in the available datasets, and make possible the incorporation of community generated data.
Second, we need to invest more resources in the expansion of open data across the civic realm. More integration between DOITT’s open data team and community groups, and an expansion of the volunteer Code Corps project beyond disaster response are good places to start. In addition to contests, we should invest governmental and philanthropic resources into embedding civic technology experts directly in our city’s community boards, city council staffs, and agency rosters.
Finally, the City Council and new Administration should look for ways to create and track ambitious performance indicators, such as early indicators for risks of foreclosure, gentrification, disinvestment, climate vulnerability, and the like. If open data can support the creation of these kinds of early warning systems, the economic (and social!) impact will be profound.
We were excited for the opportunity to advocate for the expansion of economically sustainable open data practices across the civic realm. We think our recent work cleaning and prepping NYC’s Department of Education data for the development of awesome apps to help 8th graders choose their high schools exemplifies a part of open data practice we’re talking about in this testimony. You can learn more about our school data contribution here!