Houston Introduces New Open-Data Policy

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Mayor Annise Parker: New standards will boost citizen engagement and will increase “the pace of innovation” in the nation’s fourth-largest city.

The nation’s fourth-largest city has instituted a new open data policy that will bring new standards for managing and publishing its datasets and encourage collaboration among the city government, engaged citizens and the local civic technology community.

“First and foremost, this is about increasing transparency,” Houston Mayor Annise Parker said in the city’s announcement. “It is also about citizen engagement and increasing the pace of innovation in our city. We want to engage the talents of our strong science, technology, engineering and math community to help us solve the challenges of the 21st century.”

According to the city’s announcement, the new open data policy will “establish standards and refresh guidelines” for Houston’s open-data portal, which “hosts government information in open, machine-readable formats while also ensuring privacy, confidentiality and security.”

An enterprise data officer and an open-data advisory panel will work with various city agencies to implement the new standards and policies.

Publishing data sets is not new to Houston—the city already publishes 220 datasets—but the city’s new open-data portal is designed to encourage greater collaboration between the city and citizens and organizations interested in working with the city’s data.

“This portal will enable civic technologists, entrepreneurs, innovators, researchers and others to use the data to generate new products and services, as well as build businesses and develop community resources in partnership with government to better serve the public,” newly appointed Enterprise Data Officer Jackie Smith said in the city’s announcement. “We want to know what the public wants to see that isn’t already available.”