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How Does Your City Rate in the U.S. Open Data Census?

More than 30 cities have been scored on their open data efforts, and more will be reviewed and added in the coming months.

While the “best” municipality using open data is still yet to be known, a new census has identified 36 cities making progress opening their data.

The census, officially named the U.S. Open Data Census, has scored 36 cities based on the type and quality of their open data efforts. San Francisco was listed with the highest score, and was followed by Sacramento, Calif., in second place and Salt Lake City in third.

Top 20 Open Data Cities

Below are the U.S. Open Data Census’ 20 highest scored cities as of March 21. The list is still not final -- new municipalities will be reviewed and added in the coming months. An updated listing is available on the official website.

    1.    San Francisco    
    2.    Sacramento, Calif.
    3.    Salt Lake City
    4.    Atlanta
    5.    Louisville, Ky.
    6.    Seattle, Wash.
    7.    Washington D.C.    
    8.    Charlotte, N.C.    
    9.    Anchorage, Alaska
    10.    Raleigh, N.C.
    11.    Tulsa, Okla.
    12.    Long Beach, Calif.
    13.    Miami    
    14.    Asheville,  N.C.
    15.    St. Louis, Mo.
    16.    Philadelphia    
    17.    San Antonio
    18.    Virginia Beach, Va.
    19.    Boulder, Colo.
    20.    New York City

The project — a collaboration among the Open Knowledge Foundation, the Sunlight Foundation and Code for America — reviewed cities based on 17 categories of data sets that included information on crime, transit operations, construction permits, emergency management, GIS zoning and more.

“Eventually, the value would be that if every city has similar information online, you could compare and contrast across locations,” said Emily Shaw, the national policy manager for the Sunlight Foundation.

Shaw said the list is still not final, with new municipalities expected to be reviewed and added in the next couple of months. She cautioned the list shouldn’t be taken as a type of final word or even as a comprehensive evaluation since some data sets of the cities extend beyond the 17 listed categories, and the rubric for vetting and defining best practices in is an ongoing work.

“I think we’re really happy to hear about cities’ success in putting open data online and making data machine processable," Shaw says, "but this is not the sum final word on what the most necessary data sets are. It gives cities a point of pride to say, 'We have these data sets available and easily findable on our website, and those are all good things from our perspective.'”

As one of the first national attempts at cataloguing open data city by city, Shaw said, it’s anticipated to be fine tuned year by year. Major benefits of the listing, and the cataloging behind it, are hoped to support cities and app makers alike.

“It’s not just good for cities, but also for civic hackers who are making apps for cities,” said Lauren Reid, a spokesperson at CfA.

Reid said there’s an emphasis at CfA -- and for civic hackers and entrepreneurs -- to make sure efforts touch the widest audience possible. The U.S. Open Data Census is hoped to become a listing that connects app makers to data sets offering greatest exposure to cities.

“The more data we have," Reid said, "the better picture we have of the open data landscape."

Jason Shueh is a former staff writer for Government Technology magazine.
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