The Realtors Association of Hamilton-Burlington has just sent a letter to Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina and City Council endorsing open public data. The letter, signed on behalf of the Association by Ann Forbes Arndt, Tim Mattioli, Ross Godsoe and Megan Platts, expresses support for Councillor Brian McHattie's motion on open data.
Citing improved efficiency for citizens and businesses looking to access city services, the opportunity to engage the community in building and sharing applications, improved efficiency within City Hall, the potential to "attract talented developers" to Hamilton and improved government transparency, the letter notes that cities across Canada are already "realizing the benefits of 'opening up' their data."
Following is the text of the letter:
Dear Mayor Bratina & Members of Council:
We are writing today in support of Councillor McHattie's motion regarding open data in the City of Hamilton, to be discussed at the September 12 GIC meeting. Representing over 2,500 REALTORS®, we have a direct line to the people who are choosing to call Hamilton home; the benefits of an open data strategy would make the city an even more desirable place to live.
In the past we've received comments from our members about the difficulty they have finding information on the City's website. From information on zoning, to school catchment areas to general recreation, there is no consistent, simple way to find answers.
With the digitization of nearly everything, standards and best practices have been developed around the storage and manipulation of data. We retrieve, assess and compare an increasing amount of information every day, from email to movie schedules. Cities also deal with an abundance of information, and most of it can be classified as "data": collections of information produced and employed by people and computers.
Increasingly, cities are realizing the benefits of "opening up" their data. With Edmonton, Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa and most recently the Province of British Columbia taking the leap toward more open data policies, the basic cost/benefit analysis has already been done.
One of the core principles of the open data movement is collaboration and contribution by citizens. There is a community of developers just waiting for access to data sets that will allow them to build applications. These will not only help their fellow citizens navigate their city, but will also help staff at City Hall by allowing cross-departmental information-sharing and the efficiencies that would result. Of course, privacy concerns should not be ignored, however for the most useful data sets (bus schedules, for example) this is not likely an issue.
By adopting the proposed principals, the city may also retain and attract talented developers who would be able to commercialize the applications they build using this data. Our members would be eager customers.
Open data should be seen as a benefit on a number of levels. It contributes to government transparency and accountability; it allows citizens to become more engaged in their community, either through the development or use of applications; and it should be valued as an economic development tool. For these reasons we feel that the adoption of open data would be a wise decision for council and the city.
REALTORS® Association of Hamilton-Burlington
Ann Forbes Arndt
2011 Government Relations Chair
Manager, Government & External Relations
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