Government, Innovation

City of Palo Alto’s Historic Open Data by Default Proclamation

accepting open data proclamation - reichental and mayor feb 3 2014
Jonathan Reichental (Left) & Palo Alto Mayor Nancy Shepherd (Right)

At a Palo Alto City Council meeting on Monday, Feb. 3, Mayor Nancy Shepherd read an Open Data by Default proclamation that firmly established the City’s long-term aspiration to be a model for open government.

While still in the early stages of its evolution, Open Data requires a sustained effort to build momentum and become codified into the operations of public agencies.  To this end, the City determined to move forward to be Open Data by Default.

Under City Manager James Keene, the City had committed itself to be even more inclusive and transparent through the launch of an open data platform back in 2012. This open data platform makes a range of City data easily accessible to the community, and is hosted in a way that makes it easy for software applications to use.

“Our efforts to support Open Data for the long term must include a vision, a set of principles, and the actions to make that happen,” said Keene.  “We’re taking an important step by proclaiming our commitment to build a sustained pathway to openness and inclusiveness. In addition, there is no doubt that Open Data can contribute to enriching our democracy.”

Open Data, first championed by the White House in 2008, has proven to build trust, provide essential transparency into the functions of public agencies, and to spur economic activity.

Since 2012, Palo Alto has expanded its Open Data to include Open Budget, a repository and visualization of a five year period of City budget information, and OpenGIS, an experiment in making City geospatial data more easily available.

For its efforts, the City has been recognized by California Forward who called the City, “a model for transparency in California.”  The Open Budget application has received a state and national award, and the City’s work with Open Data has contributed to its designation by the Center for Digital Government as the #1 digital city in America in its population size category.

City Chief Information Officer Jonathan Reichental said, “I’m very proud to be part of this effort as we push the boundaries of open government in Palo Alto and create momentum for cities across America to do the same thing.  Our Open Data work means innovators, entrepreneurs, and a wide range of stakeholders can use this data to be informed and build solutions. In addition to the important aspiration of openness by default, Open Data can be a contributor to economic growth.”

A copy of the proclamation can be found here.

Note: This post was adapted from the City press release I wrote for the event.

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