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Open data bumps city on national scale

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

On a national scale, the City of Oshawa has taken a few steps up in terms of openness with its raw data.

According to a recently released report from city staff, the expansion of the city’s open data portal, which makes raw data on different city services and functions publicly available, has bumped the city upwards on the Public Sector Digest’s Open Cities Index.

In 2016, when the city’s open data portal was first launched, Oshawa sat at 32nd, now following the launch of the portal and its subsequent expansion to include more data over the last year, Oshawa has climbed five spots to number 27 on the list.

Currently, the city’s open data portal includes 22 municipal data sets and 28 regional data sets, which have been accessed over 5,000 times by the public.

“That indicates a strong interest in the city’s open data program,” says city clerk Andrew Brouwer.

Within the data available is statistics relating to service and information requests at Service Oshawa, zoning regulations, municipal parking information, land uses, and animal services statistics.

And while until now the open data program has been operated on a pilot basis, staff are recommending that council move forward with making the portal a permanent fixture. As well, staff are looking to use the data as part of the Teaching City initiative Hackathon, slated for March 2018, to have post-secondary students use the data to create some kind of solution to problems faced by tenants in the city.

At the corporate services committee meeting on Dec. 4, the motion carried and will now go for final approval at council’s final meeting of 2017 on Dec. 18.

The city’s own open data portal follows in the footsteps of the Region of Durham, which launched a similar open data program in March of 2016, and other municipalities and organizations across the country are attempting to make this type of information easily available to residents.

Originally, the new Oshawa program was launched with a $5,000 budget, planned to be used for the launch of the site. However, the city was able to save that cost and get the portal up and running using solely internal resources and existing technological infrastructure.