xi. New York City Open Data Initiative

 

Interaction type

Government → Public → Government

Trigger Event

Adoption of Open Data Policy

Domain

Local authority

Organisation

NYC GIS Department and Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT)

Actors

OSM community, NYC government, Mapbox

Data sets in use

Building footprint, addresses.

Process

Data import into OSM and crowd maintenance in OSM platform.

Feedback

Daily changes

Goal

Leverage volunteers to help keep authoritative data current

Contact Point

Alex Barth, Mapbox – alex [at] mapbox.com

 

In September 2013, New York City released over 200 government datasets to the public as part of a broad open data initiative to “improve the accessibility, transparency, and accountability of City government [1].”  Using the web-platform Socrata, the data is made available for download or through APIs (application programming interface) that allows software developers to construct mobile and web-based applications that incorporate this information. This data release continues an aggressive open data push by the city government that began in 2011.  New York City’s Open Data law, signed by Mayor Bloomberg in March 2012, mandates that all city agencies “ systematically categorize and make accessible in “open” formats all public data sets at no charge [2]” before 2018.  To date, over 1100 datasets have been made available on the city’s open data portal and numerous applications have been built that address issues ranging from transportation to food safety and the environment.

In partnership with the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT), the OpenStreetMap community and Mapbox imported city building footprint and address point datasets into the OSM database.  All work was coordinated on Github and OpenStreetMap mailing lists and completed in 2015. The project history can be accessed on Github: https://github.com/osmlab/nycbuildings/issues

These critical datasets, which are necessary to support a wide variety of data analysis and visualization projects, can be difficult and expensive to keep up to date in a city as large and dynamic as New York.  Thanks to software developed by Mapbox, the New York City GIS department now receives daily emails detailing changes to OpenStreetMap building or address information.  These emails allow the GIS team to quickly assess updates in OpenStreetMap to augment City processes used to identify where new construction or other changes in the city may necessitate updates to the authoritative city dataset [3].

 

Upon completion of the import of the city data into OSM, a feedback loop between the city and the volunteer OpenStreetMap community that allows both the government and the public to work together to create and make use of up to date and high quality spatial data.  The import process for large and complex datasets like addresses and buildings is a complex process that requires technical resources, significant labor, and solid coordination between the OSM community and others involved.  In this case the information released by DoITT was up to date and of high quality, but the same can’t be said of all municipal datasets.  There has also been a great deal of communication between the city government, the OSM community and the people working on the import, which is critical to the success of these kinds of efforts.  It will be important and useful to revisit this project in the future in order to learn more from but so far it provides an excellent example of cooperation between local government and the volunteer OSM community around open data.

Main lessons:

  • The New York authority in an effort to increase accessibility and transparency created an Open Data Initiative by releasing more than 200 government datasets available to the citizens. The datasets were stored in a web application and were available for downloading free of charge. The citizens could download and create their own applications.

  • OpenStreetMap community imports city building footprint and address point datasets into the OSM database keeping the data up-to-date. The importance of the specific work can only be calculated if it is taken into account the magnitude of New York city and the great number of changes that occur daily.

  • Great cooperation between the OSM community and the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) passes the information directly from VGI to authoritative city dataset and a loop between them allows both to work together to create and make use of up to date and high quality spatial data.

  • Technical resources, significant labor, and solid coordination between the OSM community and others involved is noticed until now.

  • The project has indicated that the quality of data varies a lot and municipal datasets are in moderate levels in comparison to the data which has been created by the cooperation of OSM community and DoITT.

One thought on “xi. New York City Open Data Initiative

  1. To clarify the statement “to identify where new construction or other changes’ DoITT receives information on building construction and address assigments internally. That said, changes can fall through the cracks. In Addition, what exists in the field can differ from official records (e.g., as a feng shui follower I do not want a certain number in my address thus I unofficially change it). The changeset notifications are an additional means of capturing changes that may have been missed or are unknown. OSM is an engaged community that functions as additional sets of eyes to correct and validate the authoritative data.

    If you are a municipal GIS director/manager and your data is not of high quality, work with the OSM community to improve it and in the process benefit a greater audience.

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