December 7, 2009

Local governments open up

After much hesitation, local governments are starting to recognize the benefits of opening data up to the public.

The New York Times reports that San Francisco, New York City and Washington, D.C., are becoming more transparent.

Stumble Safely, focusing on Washington, D.C., aggregates crime reports with information on bars, sidewalks and subway stations so you can choose the safest route home. San Francisco recently unveiled DataSF, a clearinghouse of city government information. Trees Near You, an iPhone app for New York City, shows — you guessed it — trees that are near you.

With governments releasing this public information, it has allowed private developers to create useful and exciting applications that a government agency never could.

Of course, not everything is perfect. Plenty of local government agencies are reluctant to release information. Eight counties in Nevada are breaking the law by not providing TransparentNevada with their salary information. As other cities show the benefits of transparency though, more local governments will begin to embrace the people's right to know.

And combined with the advances in technology, one can only imagine what the future has in store.