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Open data: A key component for 21st century digital services

Blog Post
The City of Portland has implemented open data since 2009. Our latest progress in open data facilitates collaboration and building digital services for a 21st century organization. Six open data principles can guide City bureaus to implement their own open data strategies. 
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Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, many cities have been compelled to improve accessibility to digital services, thereby transforming the way cities deliver programs and services. 

To be sure, cities collected data to understand the needs of residents and the effectiveness of programs before COVID-19. However, the value of data depends on its accuracy and timeliness in comparison to the reality of residents. And in this moment, that value has become even more critical.

Access to public data informs people and communities about City activities. It helps people understand how a city works and shapes informed conversations between government and residents. Cities like Portland can build more trust and become better public stewards by making data open. 

6 Open Data Principles 

Here are six open data principles that City services and programs can adopt to create trust and value: 

  1. Open by Default - Transparency assures accountability and constant improvement. Governments need to justify closing data, for example for security or data protection reasons. To make this work, people must feel confident that open data will not compromise their right to privacy. 

  1. Timely and Comprehensive - Open data is only valuable if it’s still relevant. Getting information published fast and in a comprehensive way is central to its potential for success. 

  1. Accessible and Usable - Ensuring that data is machine readable and easy to find will make data go further. Portals are one way of achieving this. Bureaus should consider the user experience for accessing data. This includes the file formats, visualizations, assistive technology, etc. 

  1. Comparable and Interoperable - Data value depends on the quality of the datasets and how easy is to connect with others. Commonly agreed data standards help with this principle. 

  1. Improved Governance & Public Engagement - Open data has the capacity to let people have a better idea of what government is doing. This transparency can improve public services and help hold governments to account. 

  1. Inclusive Development and Innovation - Open data can help spur inclusive economic development. Open data improves government performance, enables others advocacy, economic opportunities, and creativity. 

We can build a 21st century digital City by trusting and supporting each other, and open data is a key component of that.  

Where to learn more 

The City of Portland open data program offers support to bureaus to publish data. This includes assistance with increasing data literacy, data curation, assessing privacy, and applying equity in data management.  

Portland's Open Data Coordinator, Hector Dominguez, shares insights into the expansion of the City's open data portal. (November 2020)

Written by Hector Dominguez, the City of Portland's Open Data Coordinator. 

Hector has led the City's open data, privacy and surveillance technologies initiatives. His work includes ethical use of technology and the City’s privacy and open data toolkit. Contact Hector at Hector.DominguezAguirre@portlandoregon.gov.