Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Toronto Data Goes Public - Free GIS Data

The City of Toronto has joined a handful of other cities around the world in making its municipal data open to the public.

Toronto major David Miller launched toronto.ca/open, the city's official data set catalogue, at the Toronto Innovation Showcase in early November.

The site includes "an initial group of data sets ranging from apartment inspection data to child care data availability to dozens of GIS mapping data (sets) that will enable a broad range of location-based applications," he said.

An independently developed companion site, datato.org, that allows the public to request new data sets, set priority levels on the data sets by casting votes and enter discussions and debates launched the same day.

Miller initially announced that efforts were underway to create "a library of open data in machine readable formats" at the Mesh Conference for Web developers this spring.

"Anyone can download, analyze and mash up our data or write applications to make it more accessible and useful. It is an invitation to Torontonians to do what they do best: create, innovate and build a better city," Miller said.

Open data is happening in at least five other cities in a big way, according to City of Toronto CIO Dave Wallace, who also spoke at the Toronto Innovation Showcase.

Proactive disclosure is key, according to Wallace, who pointed out that about 90 per cent of data is routinely available. "We just have to get it out there," he said.

Context is another key element, noted Wallace. It's important for everyone to understand what is in these data sets and to understand the codes, he said.

The majority of data that is opening up is GIS, said Wallace. Initial data sets include Toronto Centreline data, address points, business improvement areas, apartment standards for by-law infractions against buildings, day care centres and city subsidized spaces, TTC schedules and events.

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