Small and Midsize Cities Fare Well in Open Data Census

It was bound to happen sooner or later. After all, it’s a competitive world, and people do love rankings.

The groups Code for America, Sunlight Foundation and the Open Knowledge Foundation have published an Open Data Census that ranks 36 U.S. cities according to how many civic datasets they’ve opened to the public.

The study takes into account dozens of possible datasets, from crime data to 311 calls to restaurant inspections to GIS data. The results can be sorted by score (top scorer San Francisco at 1570 all the way to three cities at 0) or alphabetically, and viewers can take a deep dive into information on all 36 cities.

The ranking is actually a fascinating dataset in and of itself, especially for an avowed data geek like me.

What strikes me most, though, is the fact that many of the governments ranking well on the list are small and midsize cities. Governments in places such as Anchorage, Alaska (pop. 300,000), Asheville, N.C. (pop. 85,000) and Mesa, Ariz. (pop. 450,000) are doing a great job.

Sacramento Rockets to No. 3 on National Ranking

And there’s Sacramento, Calif., where CIO Maria MacGunigal has led the Open Data charge. Sacramento (pop. 475,000) took a methodical, step-by-step approach using our Open Data Platform.

They started simply with datasets that were of most immediate value to  residents, such as 311 service requests, finance and budget, Police Department statistics, citywide contracts and building permit numbers.

The portal launched in November 2013, with plenty of room to grow – and grow it has. In just a few months, Sacramento rocketed to the No. 3 spot on the Open Data Census, with more than 40 datasets available. For example, the portal includes a scalable map that shows the location of every tree in the city, and graphs showing where government spending goes.

As Sacramento Showed, Open Data Can Be Simple

MacGunigal has said that’s just the start. The city is encouraging residents to suggest more data for inclusion via its citizen engagement site, and it’s working to support civic IT projects and third-party app developers.

As MacGunigal told Government Technology, “It is important to support and encourage innovation by providing access to information and encouraging residents and businesses to find ways of using public data. We are willing to add other data the community requests.”

I’m proud of Junar’s role in supporting Sacramento to its Open Data success. More than that, I’m excited about the prospect of still more small and midsize governments discovering that a practical path to Open Data is within their reach.

As cities like Sacramento have found, Open Data doesn’t have to be difficult, and it’s not just for big cities like New York, Boston and San Francisco. Today’s Open Data Platforms provide an easy path for cities of all sizes to get started, with plenty of capacity to scale up.