City opens kimono – wasn’t much to see. Did we misunderstand the objective? Thought we were going to get a peek.

We have ream upon ream of data that sits on computer hard drives or servers - Burlington wants to let the public at some of it - instead of it all going down some kind of a tunnel to information never, never land.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  – December 7, 2011 – The City of Burlington has launched an open data pilot project as part of its developing e-Government strategy, making interacting with the city online easier and more convenient for residents and businesses in Burlington.  Huh!  How does a list of all the parks in the city – there are 127 of them with a notation as to whether there is parking and washroom facilities, get defined as Open Data or e-government?

During public consultations on the city’s e-Government strategy, survey respondents and focus group participants called for open data to be made available in more usable and accessible formats.

I think people wanted to know:  How much public money the council members spend on entertainment.  How much the city has spent on legal fees for The Pier. Which wards have the most roads that are badly in need of repair.  Why it has taken so long to complete the cut over from one telephone system to another – city bought a new telephone system.  Why do some development applications slide through in literally minutes while others get tangled up for months on end with the public never being fully aware of just what is going on.

I could go on for some length.

“This project is a great example of how participation and input from the public can improve the way the city delivers information,” said Mayor Rick Goldring.  “I believe the open data pilot project can inspire and create new opportunities for enhanced service delivery. It also demonstrates the city’s commitment to corporate transparency and accountability.”

This is really creative “happy talk” – almost as bad as the beads and whisky we used to give the Indians.

The city’s open data pilot project gives the public online access to raw, machine-readable information so interested users can reuse the data for research and analysis or combine with other available municipal data to develop web-based applications for public use.

There is some truth to that – but what the Information Technology in Burlington have done is really very timid stuff.

e-government is the latest buzz word being used by municpal administrators. Will it help ypou with the information you need? Don't bet on it - this is all very experimental.

The pilot project will make datasets available for the city’s parks and recreation facilities. This will include information such as park location, number and type of on-site facilities, services and amenities offered as well as recreation and leisure attributes like trails, sports fields and courts.

“Making raw data available for public usage and new application development is just one of the ways we are embracing information technology to evolve our customer service practices,” said Christine Swenor, director of IT services. “We are optimistic that the information we make available will be used to create web applications that can benefit residents of Burlington and beyond.”

We will believe this when we see it – we’d love to see it.

The open data portal is available at The pilot phase will take place over a six-month period, during which time the city will explore further opportunities to provide users with additional datasets.

We are a little underwhelmed with this first wave of data sets – but let’s give them some time and see what they do – but if this is the level of “open data” Burlington will get passed by everyone else on the information highway.

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