Open data initiative kicks off in South Bend, Indiana

The city enacts an open data plan showing a strong commitment to making public data accessible

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Bicycle routes in South Bend

Image credit: South Bend Open Data Portal

Notre Dame is a Catholic school in South Bend, Indiana best known, of course, for having the most storied college football program in the country, despite its relatively small size. The city of South Bend is also small (population: 100,800) but it has recently proven itself to be a big player in another arena: making public data open and accessible.

Last month, South Bend, following a number of other cities, states and countries, enacted an open data law. As the Sunlight Foundation recently pointed out, what makes the South Bend open data law notable isn’t just the size of the city (it’s the smallest city with such a law) but the commitment it shows to making all public data open. The South Bend law says that all data that is public, as defined by Indiana's Access to Public Records Act, should be open and accessible - with no exceptions.

Other municipalities have created open data legislation using existing public record laws, but while also providing exceptions for certain types of data. Wisconsin’s open data law, for example, defines the data to be made open as those that fall under Wisconsin Public Record Laws and Madison Public Record Ordinances and then proceeds to list nine types of exceptions. For example, “Data that reflects the internal deliberative process of an agency,” are not to be made open. 

The South Bend law is unique in that it requires that all public data should be made accessible as open data, through their new open data portal, in open formats and be made available for automated processing. The law also calls for the creation of an Open Data Management Team to oversee implementation and calls on each city department to identify which data currently aren’t made open and to create timelines for doing so. Yearly reports on the status of the city’s open data initiative are to be submitted to the mayor.

Looking at what data they’ve already made public, it’s interesting to see what a relatively small city has to offer, data-wise. Here are a couple of data sets that I found interesting:

So far, nothing there yet related to the Fighting Irish. Hopefully, they’ll fix that soon.

Read more of Phil Johnson's #Tech blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Phil on Twitter at @itwphiljohnson. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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