This August, Charlottesville, Va., residents will have greater access to government salaries, traffic information, environmental data, and police statistics, thanks to a new open data portal from Smart Cville.
Smart Cville is a nonprofit, citizen-driven organization that promotes the use of technology to make cities better places to live.
Smart Cville expects many stakeholders to benefit from this increased transparency and access. Lucas Ames, chairman of Smart Cville’s board, said journalists, neighborhood leaders, nonprofits and civic-minded developers and innovators will all find uses for the new open data portal.
All information on the portal will include data sets that are machine-readable and free to download. Assistant City Manager Leslie Beauregard said city staff members are developing the project at no additional cost to the city.
The open data portal is just one part of an initiative Charlottesville undertook last year, with the goals of increasing government transparency and encouraging rapid growth of the city’s tech sector.
“This is a really cool project,” Mayor Mike Signer said at a City Council meeting last month. “This will put us at the leading edge of governments doing this kind of thing.”
City officials hope the increased transparency makes the city more appealing to tech companies.
“We’re committed to growing a tech economy here,” said Councilor Kristin Szakos. “Having large organizations, especially city government, opening their data, really does help that tech economy. It makes it a place where people want to be and gives them data they can use to make our city better.”
In addition to pursuing open data projects, Smart Cville is also prioritizing civic innovation projects and technology-driven solutions to challenges facing the city. For the first two priorities, Smart Cville selected a “role model,” another local government that already has achieved what Smart Cville is working toward.
For open data, Smart Cville is looking to SF Open Data–San Francisco’s equivalent. SF Open Data has already made police data open and available to the public and improved sewer drain maintenance with an open data portal. For civic innovation, Charlottesville is modeling itself after Philadelphia’s Code for Philly, which has tackled everything from an app to help kids apply for college to mapping and analyzing the effect of recent zoning reforms on the city.