King County Council adopts plan to make data available to local innovators

Opening County to application development business

King County took new steps today toward having more County information available for developers to use in smartphone applications. The Metropolitan King County Council unanimously adopted legislation requiring the county to publish high value data sets creating the possibility for people and businesses to disseminate data to the public through the use of technology applications on websites and cell phones.

“Political leaders like to talk about what a smart region we live in and how we are going to harness their knowledge to improve government,” said Councilmember Reagan Dunn, sponsor of the ordinance. “This legislation will allow developers and the media to use King County data in new and innovative ways. In the process, our citizens get access to more information and our government becomes more transparent.”

“This effort will help King County expand the work we’re doing on regional open government initiatives,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “By collaborating with local developers to find new uses and platforms for county data, we hope to help create applications that provide richer information and better service for all county residents.”

High value data sets can provide a variety of information ranging from crime statistics to the hourly amount of wastewater treated to bus schedules to the location of the nearest county park could be published on a county web site. The adopted legislation requires that by August 1, the Executive transmit an initial list of the high-value data sets that are being considered for on-line publication.

By November 1, the County should have a website on line to make data sets from that list available. The Executive will select existing data to make available on the web site. The data must be in an “open format,” which means platform independent, machine readable, and made available to the public without restrictions. The ordinance also includes privacy protections to ensure that any released data is appropriate for unrestricted public disclosure.

Jurisdictions across the country are turning to new forms of technology to give citizens more access to government. San Francisco recently created a Web site highlighting applications created by the public with access to the cities’ information and providing data to the public (http://datasf.org/showcase/). New York City has also created a similar Web site that provides data from sidewalk cafes to historic houses (http://www.nyc.gov/html/datamine/html/home/home.shtml).

“Technology is moving far faster than any of us can imagine. Government moves too slowly to be able to create these mechanisms for people to access our information,” Dunn said. “The invention of cell phone applications and open source computer codes has caused an explosion of innovation. Similarly, the release of county data in an easy- to-use format will encourage people to develop applications that use county data in ways the county would never have considered.”

King County will announce a public open data workshop in June.