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New York City Council Passes Landmark Open Data Legislation

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Wednesday, February 29 2012

As expected, the New York City Council on Wednesday voted unanimously to approve a landmark piece of legislation that would require its 50 plus agencies to publish their quantitive data sets through an online portal in a machine-readable format, enabling public and private sector access to better manipulate and interpret the city's information. The bill as passed was crafted with the cooperation of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration and it's expected that the mayor will sign the legislation into law.

“The proposed Open Data bill represents the most aggressive commitment by any municipality in the country to systematically categorize and ‘unlock’ public data sets, and we were pleased to work with the City Council, open government advocates, and agencies citywide to codify the Bloomberg Administration’s historic transparency gains,” said Carole Post, the city's chief information officer and its Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications' (DoITT) commissioner.

DoITT's staff expect the city to spend slightly less than $2 million in the project's first 18 months of getting all of the city's datasets standardized in a format to be published online.

"One of the efforts that we’re undertaking right now is an inventory of all the assets at NYC.gov, so all of the interactive applications that we have, or spreadsheets that are posted online that are regularly updated, we are going to be looking at all of those and making a determination as to what makes sense to go on the open data platform, so that assessment is going to take a little bit of time," said Andrew Nicklin, DoITT’s Director of Research and Development in a call with techPresident. "And we have an effort underway with agencies to make sure how their data can be more connected to the platform and make it automated, so we don’t have someone lifting files and porting them back and forth, so there’s going to be some software procurement and automation."

Some critics have said that the legislation got watered down during the many years that the city and city council lawyers negotiated its terms. For example, the legislation doesn't call for a dedicated chief data officer, like Chicago has. But DoITT Spokesman Nicholas Sbordone counters that the department already has a team of people who manage the city's data projects. One of them is Albert Webber, DoITT’s Open Data Coordinator.

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