Louisville, Ky., is the latest municipality to officially embrace the open data movement.
Mayor Greg Fischer announced on Oct. 15 that he had signed Executive Order No. 1, Series 2013, which establishes an open data plan for Louisville. His remarks were made at the 2013 Code for America Summit in San Francisco.
Oakland and West Sacramento, Calif., both took a similar plunge this month, bringing the total number of cities to formalize open data plans to five in 2013. Tulsa, Okla., and South Bend, Ind., jumped on the open data train earlier this year.
The Louisville policy will include an “open by default” provision, which emphasizes proactive disclosure of data sets when they become available, as opposed to reacting to specific information requests.
According to a blog post by the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit transparency advocate, the executive order indicates that Louisville’s policy should be “firmly rooted in legal precedent” through the Kentucky Open Meetings and Open Records acts and will have a number of checks and balances to ensure information is disclosed. The U.S. government adopted a similar “open by default” standard in May.
In an interview with Insider Louisville, Michael Schnuerle, CEO of Metro Mapper, a GIS-based Louisville news hub, said while Fischer’s executive order is worded well, he has concerns with a few glaring omissions. He noted that unlike the policies in Philadelphia and New York City, Louisville lacks a clear timetable for the plan.
In addition, the Louisville executive order does not specify which city departments are covered by the order. It also isn’t clear whether the data will include historic information and various ways to download the data.
Chris Poynter, Fischer’s communications director, explained that the city already has a data portal at data.louisvilleky.gov, and has been following the executive order in practice for some time. Specific details about the official plan are being discussed internally. He added that a full rollout of the policy could take a while, as city department directors need to be briefed on how the plan may impact them.
The goal, however, is to make all data fully accessible to the public.
“I think we want to get to a point where we have everything out there,” Poynter said. "So having this policy in place we’ll be working to get as much out there as possible so you don’t have to ask anymore and put in an open records request. But that’s going to take some time.”
Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology magazine from 2011 to mid-2015.