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Opening the doors for data

City following in footsteps of other governments by making information on properties, animal services, service request numbers and more available online

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

Oshawa is taking action on the openness and transparency front by starting to make wide swaths of raw data available to the public.

As part of an open data pilot project approved by council prior to its summer recess, city staff will now be making low-level information available through the city’s website, including parcel and property fabric information, zoning and existing land-use data, animal services statistics and outcome data, service and information request numbers through Service Oshawa, housing licenses and parking information in the downtown core.

Mayor John Henry says he sees many advantages to launching such a program not just for current residents, but future ones as well.

“It makes it easier for residents, it makes it easier, of course, for the media, but it makes it easier for people who are looking at our community to come in and establish businesses,” he says. “We’ve been very lucky. For the last 10 years, we’ve been moving in a way that repositions the city for great opportunities and now we’re an economy that has many moving pieces.”

The release of this information follows in the footsteps of the Region of Durham, which launched a similar open data program in March, and other municipalities and organizations across the country that are attempting to make this type of information easilly available to residents.

The federal government launched its open data portal in 2011, with the Ontario government following suit in November 2015.

The new Oshawa program is anticipated to be launched without any impact on the existing budget, with only $5,000 needed from the annual technology projects capital budget needed for the initial launch of the portal on the city’s website.

According to the city’s report, the usage of the data will be monitored for the duration of the pilot project, set to last for a minimum of nine months, to help information future decisions on the program.

“Staff will monitor the usage of the various data sets as well as seek feedback from stakeholders related to the service and the types of data that would be of value in future releases,” the report reads.

“Also, through this process, staff will consider removing data sets that are not being used.”

Other Ontario municipalities with similar programs include Kitchener, London, Toronto, Waterloo, Welland, Windsor and Oakville.