The Big Apple is stepping up its open data program.

The New York City Council unanimously approved a measure on Wednesday, Feb. 29, that requires city agencies to publish public data sets on an online portal. The legislation, Intro 29A, is expected to be signed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The law would be phased in over the next six years, beginning with a technical manual that will help city agencies upload data in the proper format. That guide will be released by the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT), according to Michael Keller of The New York World.

Keller also revealed that DoITT plans to use Socrata for the data portal, which the agency currently uses for the NYC OpenData site. In addition, DoITT spokesman Nicholas Sbordone told The New York World that “public data” is defined by the agency as information that’s already published online or information available through an open records request.

Andrew Nicklin, DoITT’s director of research and development, told TechPresident that the agency is identifying all of the applications and applications that are currently online to decide what should go on the new open data portal. He added that DoITT is also investigating making the data transfer process more automated, which will require an investment in software and automation tools.

TechPresident also reported that DoITT plans to spend almost $2 million in the first 18 months of the order to get the city’s public data sets arranged in a standardized, downloadable format.

The push to use data more efficiently has been under way in Gotham since last July’s “Reinvent NYC.gov” hackathon. New York City’s official website is about to receive a major overhaul based on the winning designs from that contest. An RFP was released in late January to move forward with the redesign.

A contract for the NYC.gov facelift will be for two years with an additional one-year option. Geraldine Sweeney, DoITT’s senior associate commissioner for policy, planning and communications, said the city wants to award the contract for the redesign by mid-April, with the goal to have the work finished by the end of 2012.