Minneapolis’ seven-month-old open data initiative has pushed the city to put dozens of data collections online, but a handful of departments still haven’t posted any information.
Seven of the city’s 12 departments have posted data they’ve gathered on topics such as 311 calls, fires, rental licenses, energy usage in public buildings and future land use planning. The city’s open data website has been visited more than 400,000 times and visitors have downloaded more than 1,200 data sets, according to a report Otto Doll, the city’s chief information officer, presented to council members Wednesday.
Doll said officials are pleased with progress on the effort to make more raw data available to residents, businesses, the media and other interested groups. The open data policy approved last July made Minneapolis the 16th city in the country to adopt regulations about posting city data.
But he said the city is also looking to improve its system. Some council members said Wednesday that they’d like to see more effort from all departments in posting data. So far there have been no reports from the offices of the city attorney, assessor or clerk or from the Civil Rights Commission or Internal Audit Department. Otto’s report notes that the clerk’s office is currently working on a report on historic election data.
While each department is required to put someone in charge of data and begin posting, there’s no firm timeline on when that must happen. Otto said the process of sorting out what data the city has, and then getting it all online, takes time. He noted that there have been calls for a more clear way to search the full range of data Minneapolis has available.
“I would like to have that, too,” he said. “We are working toward that, but we are a ways off from having that ability in one place, using one tool.”
Otto said he’s also aware that more users would like to get the data in a format that puts it into context, rather than just a confusing spreadsheet of numbers. The city has experimented on several projects, including an interactive map of dangerous dogs and a searchable tour of public art.
Council Member Andrew Johnson said he knows of neighborhood associations that have used the city’s data to assist renters. He said he’s used the data portal himself instead of making a more formal data request. And he’s sorted through the information to help provide detailed information to potential business owners — including one he says ended up deciding to locate in his ward.
Council Member Cam Gordon said he’s hopeful the next annual data report will include participation from all of the city’s departments.
“I think this is a very useful tool … but now what can we do to get more information out there?” he said.