DataTO Supports Toronto in Prioritizing Open Data

Building a City That Thinks Like The Web, the title of a presentation given by Mark Surman to the city of Toronto last year, seems to have lived on to become the motto for Toronto’s open data catalogue. Last Thursday at DemoCamp 24, developer Adam Thody gave a talk on his related project, DataTO.org, a site that through user activity aids the city in identifying data sets residents want access to.

Surman’s original talk explained how the forces of openness and collaboration worked to develop the open source Firefox web browser we all know today. It described a community of users not happy with the offerings at the time, and who pooled together time, and money in order to create a better experience for users, that they themselves could help shape. The story of DataTO is a good example of this.

Conceived only less than two weeks before the original launch of toronto.ca/open at a meeting between community leader Mark Kuznicki, Developer Adam Thody, and Thody’s employer Architech Solutions, the opportunity was identified to give users a voice in expressing the data they wanted access to from the city, and for the city to better understand user needs and expectations.

DataTO.org, which lets users create, comment, and vote on requests for city data, helps the city of Toronto prioritize the data sets they publish on Toronto.ca/Open.

While the site is still labeled as being an alpha release, Thody mentions that the site has already reached 200 members, and is close to having 100 requests for datasets. He also mentions that other cities have taken note of DataTO and have expressed interest in having similar sites to pair with their own open data initiatives. Appropriately, open sourcing the code for the website seems to be in the plan for the site as Thody mentioned in a comment on his blog, “I feel there is much to be gained by sharing this platform with other cities, and having the global developer community contribute to it. Again, this is now more of a question of how best to go about it”.

One of the major short term goals for the project is getting it translated into other languages.