NYC Passes Data Transparency Law - InformationWeek

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Government // Leadership

NYC Passes Data Transparency Law

New law will give the public unprecedented access to public government data and supports the city's IT innovation efforts, said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

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New York has passed an open-data law that creates new transparency requirements for city agencies to provide unprecedented public access to government data, said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

"If we're going to continue leading the country in innovation and transparency, we're going to have to make sure that all New Yorkers have access to the data that drives our City," Bloomberg said in remarks in a public hearing passing the law, officially called Introductory Number 29-A.

The first step the city's Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications will take to help agencies comply with the new law is post on its website a technical standards manual. This will streamline data availability for the "greatest number of users and the greatest number of applications," Bloomberg said.

Then agencies will have a year to convert public data sets that are currently in proprietary formats to ones that support open standards so developers can easily use the data for new apps.

[ New York's new health-data query system aims to help the health department do its job better. New York To Test Health Data Query Standard. ]

In 18 months' time, each agency must post a compliance plan that describes all of the public data each agency owns, plans that will be updated every year, Bloomberg said. The ultimate result of agencies' open-data inventory will be to post those data sets to a unified Web portal by 2018.

New York's move follows one by San Francisco more than a year ago to create a law requiring agencies to open as much data as possible to the public. It also supports previous efforts New York has made to support data transparency, including an annual NYC BigApps challenge, whicht encourages developers to build new and useful apps based on currently available city data.

Bloomberg in fact referenced the BigApps challenge in his remarks, saying the contest is a prime example of the power of open data.

"At the contest's core is a simple premise: this data belongs to the public, and if we make it accessible to everyone, the possibilities are limitless," he said. "That's exactly the purpose of the bill before me today."

Indeed, New York has been one of the most proactive U.S. cities in following the feds to support open data and use technology to improve city services and foster more public engagement. Activities the city has launched to this end in the past two years include social-networking and cloud-sourcing efforts and the appointment of the city's first-ever chief digital officer.

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