Getting a head start on 2017 International Open Data Day, which is Saturday, March 4, the Los Angeles City Council on Friday declared Saturday Open Data Day in L.A. as well. In addition to Los Angeles, 42 cities in the U.S. made the same declaration, as did hundreds of localities worldwide.
L.A. City Controller Ron Galperin and Councilmember Bob Blumenfield made a presentation on the topic and recognized Hack for LA, a nonprofit that develops tech-based solutions for civic challenges in Los Angeles, the city said in a news release.
“Open data and transparency go hand in hand,” Galperin said in a statement. “I’m excited to promote Open Data Day in Los Angeles and celebrate the creative and effective technological uses of open data that the City has pioneered.”
Among Hack for LA’s initiatives, its volunteers created Foodoasis.la, a website that locates healthy food sources in low-income areas with few food resources.
More than 20 members of Hack for L.A. attended the meeting, including coders, designers, students, activists and members of government agencies.
Galperin pointed out that open data isn’t a new concept, but finds its roots in the U.S. Census. He saluted his city’s role in promoting open data and finding creative ways to use it — taking a bit of a swipe at the Trump administration as he spoke.
"While some in Washington seek to peddle alternative facts and to backpedal on transparency, we in L.A. are embracing transparency and open government and opening our doors to technology and innovation," he told the City Council. "Only by sharing our information, and allowing others to help with it, can we stay on the cutting edge."
The openness of available data, Galperin said, can "renew people's faith in government."
Blumenfield pronounced himself proud to have worked with Galperin, Mayor Eric Garcetti and “many others” to make the city a leader in open data and create “one of the most transparent and accessible local governments in the nation.”
“It is said that ‘sunshine is the best disinfectant,’ and ensuring that all Angelenos can see where every cent of taxpayer money is spent helps build trust in government and holds elected officials accountable,” Blumenfield said.
City Councilman Mitchell Englander pointed out that open data has saved lives, letting city police and fire departments do a better job of allocating resources to meet needs.
The city’s visualizations in its award-winning open data portals include city-owned properties, parking tickets, affordable housing, payroll, utilities and procurement.
Galperin’s open data program, at lacontroller.org, includes ControlPanelLA, which provides information about the city’s expenditures, revenues, payroll, and accounts; and PropertyPanelLA, a map of 9,000 city-owned land parcels.
International Open Data Day promotes transparency through the use of freely available, non-copyrighted data. This year’s event focuses on open data for research, human rights and the environment, and for tracking the flow of public money.
With the federal government suspending its annual observance of International Open Data Day this year, it is imperative for state and local governments to take the lead, the city said in its news release.
Globally, Saturday’s International Open Data Day features 324 registered events, from Brazil to Spain to the Philippines. Data resources highlighted in conjunction with the event range from flood information for residents of England and Wales to “Spills in Brooklyn,” which tracks noxious chemical spills around the borough.
Far younger than the World Wide Web, which is now 25, International Open Data Day dates to 2010 when it was first suggested by David Eaves, a lecturer on technology and government at Harvard University, in a conversation with several other like-minded folk. After apparently taking 2012 off, the event has since migrated from the year’s last quarter to its first.
“This idea has lots of owners, from Brazil to Europe to Canada, and so my gut check tells me, there is interest. So let’s take the next step. Let’s do it,” Eaves wrote in an Internet post on the topic in late 2010.
By 2014, the day had garnered enough notice that the Sunlight Foundation, the open government advocacy nonprofit, proclaimed it the new Earth Day.
Writing for Sunlight, Rebecca Williams said it had by then “come to demonstrate collective support of an emerging global consensus and vision for the future.