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Help ensure Calgary’s “Open City” initiative is framed in the right light

By DJ Kelly July 21, 2009

If you know what “open data” means it is time for you to weigh in on what you think of Calgary’s “open government” initiative heading to council next week.

This is important because I imagine very shortly the ‘nay-sayers’ will automatically trot out their ill-informed opinions on privacy and security concerns to the media. Which, in turn, I postulate would be written about by journalists not familiar with data storage and security protocols, which will then be read by average citizens who will naturally share the fear they are being presented with. I’m hoping the internet community can start to frame this discussion in a positive light starting today, before this happens. Please share on your blogs and twitter how these concerns and challenges can be met.

I’d even start by talking about the data itself. The kinds of data that I see being put into this system are things like: garbage collection data, crime rates and locations, transit schedules, traffic patterns, mapping data, watershed flows, and life-cycle plans. In short, the vast majority of the data is not personal in any way, shape or form.

The privacy conversation should and will be had though. Recommendations on this front are asked to be included in the report. There is no point in being concerned in the slightest until the report comes back with some realistic, hard information to debate.

However I think it bears mentioning that the most personal data the City of Calgary collects – homeowner details and property values – have been available through the planning department and the City of Calgary’s property assessment website for years. Even decades in the case of the former. If citizens did not get upset about this data being made available then, then I’m not sure why they would be concerned about traffic data being available too.

As a final thought it is important to note the notice of motion already instructs administration to look at privacy and security issues and report back on potential issues. Due diligence has to be – and will be done.

I think many share my urging that this initiative move forward in a well thought out manner and doesn’t get side tracked by un-knowledgeable people offering sound bites. Please help ensure that doesn’t occur by writing about the project.

  • Deekay

    Interesting you chose to defend your blog / Pincott’s/Ceci’s notice of motion prior to seeing or hearing a diverse viewpoint from the media or other critics or supporters. Also, I think most of the information you cite above is already available via FOIP requests – just not easily accessible online. The average citizen just may not have the time, wherewithal or inkling to go down to city hall, drop $25 bucks on a FOIP request and wait 30 days for the information.

  • Deekay

    Interesting you chose to defend your blog / Pincott’s/Ceci’s notice of motion prior to seeing or hearing a diverse viewpoint from the media or other critics or supporters. Also, I think most of the information you cite above is already available via FOIP requests – just not easily accessible online. The average citizen just may not have the time, wherewithal or inkling to go down to city hall, drop $25 bucks on a FOIP request and wait 30 days for the information.

  • DJ Kelly

    Deekay: I’ve been setting out the case for this motion (aka ‘defending’) for a while and I want to be proactive in ensuring the debate around it is based on actual evidence. This fear of mine is based on personal experience. I think everyone will do well to listen to educated opinions surrounding on this topic – those who are far more versed in this kind of information that I am – or the majority of the public. This is the best way to ensure an intelligent debate should the need for one arise.

  • DJ Kelly

    Deekay: I’ve been setting out the case for this motion (aka ‘defending’) for a while and I want to be proactive in ensuring the debate around it is based on actual evidence. This fear of mine is based on personal experience. I think everyone will do well to listen to educated opinions surrounding on this topic – those who are far more versed in this kind of information that I am – or the majority of the public. This is the best way to ensure an intelligent debate should the need for one arise.