Open Your Mind About Open Data

“Open data” seems to be the new buzz term around town but if you’re still not sure what the fuss is about, this list might just pique your interest.

Our city will be buzzing with data enthusiasts next month when the annual Canadian Open Data Summit takes place, June 12-14. It’s clear that Edmonton’s got open data fever but not everyone’s got the bug…yet. They say enthusiasm is contagious so here are a few things that might get you onboard the open data train.

1. Open Data is more than facts and figures
Putting the acronyms and technical jargon aside, at its core, open data is a philosophy. It’s about transparency, democracy and accessibility. ​

A great city is an open city. And Edmonton – we are both. We were one of the first cities in Canada to adopt an open data approach​ when we launched our open data catalogue​. It provides current and historic information on everything from mosquito levels to historical buildings to wifi locations in the city.

Making this kind of information free and freely available has tremendous potential to influence how we plan, build and live in our city.

2. Data isn’t just quantitative
When most people think data, they think spreadsheets and numbers. The world of open data is actually much more expansive.

For example, the City of Edmonton has a dataset dedicated to Indigenous-named places. Indigenous people founded our community and have called Edmonton home for more than 10,000 years. We are proud to have one of the largest urban Indigenous populations in Canada.

Honouring this rich past and large population are over 100 place names in Edmonton with Indigenous roots. This dataset allows users to identify and understand the source of many of these place names found in our city – streets, parks, neighbourhoods, walkways and more.

3. It’s good for business
From start-ups to big companies, open data is good for business.

Operating with an open approach has helped many businesses pioneer solutions, identify market gaps, find new ways to connect with their audience and maintain a competitive edge
Learning how to use open data to grow your business is one of the many topics being explored at the Canadian Open Data Summit.

4. The movement is universal
We all know that Canada is a world leader in open data, with Open Data Watch ranking us 8th among 173 national statistical offices.

The appetite and momentum doesn’t stop there; through the Open Government Partnership, governments from more than 75 countries, including Canada, have made concrete commitments to “promote transparency, fight corruption, empower citizens, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance with a strong emphasis on open data as a means to achieve this”. Edmonton also recently adopted the International Open Data Charter, joining 45 governments around the world.

5. Open data is kinda cool – seriously!
As our nation gears up for Canada 150, we are also celebrating five of our seven teams making the NHL Playoffs. Did you know a few years ago the Edmonton Oilers looked into improving their standings with analytics by encouraging hockey fans to data mine – investigating statistical information to contribute to the team’s success. Think Moneyball…but on ice!

If sports isn’t your thing, explore 150 Years of Canadian Art – a open data project that allows users to discover Canadian art.

Data visualization is the concept of taking open data and making the information digestible in a visual way. Using this principle, some are taking it to the next level. Check out this project which lets you listen to the sound of a city’s environmental data, in real time.