Open data on its way to San Diego

150 150 Cheryl Getuiza

(photo credit: Sean Carney)

In any race, whether it’s the Daytona 500 or the 100 meters in a track and field event at the Summer Olympics, coming in last or close to last doesn’t cut it.

 When it comes to Open Data Policies, in major metropolitan cities in the country, the scenario is nearly the same. Just ask San Diego Councilman Mark Kersey of District 5.

 “Most major cities in the country have adopted some sort of open data policy and frankly, a lot of medium sized ones as well. The only benefit I see of us being behind everyone else is that we can learn from what they’ve done and build on best practices and craft a really good policy and that’s what we’re doing,” said Kersey.

Since stepping into office about a year and a half ago, Kersey has made it a point to bring San Diego out of the dark ages when it comes to open data.

Just last year, the Councilman brought a draft open data policy to a committee, which in turn spurred an Open Data Advisory Group.

The Policy has three core tenants:

  • Data by default is open unless there’s a reason that it shouldn’t be.
  • Data must be machine readable.

“The City must put it out there in a way where people can actually utilize it. We can’t just dump a bunch of PDFs on people. The data needs to be put out there easily so people can manipulate it.”  

  • The City must appoint a Chief Data Officer.

“We need someone in charge of overseeing all of this, to work with our various departments and explain to them why it’s necessary for the public as well as explain the benefits to them. It is key that we have buy-in from the City departments and they’re not viewing this as something forced but beneficial, if properly implemented.”

Kersey believes the city could make open data work in collaboration with the community by tapping into the City’s technology sector.

“What we found is we’ve got people who are more than willing to donate their time and help their city. San Diego is the most advanced technologically in the country, but you would not know it from our government. You couldn’t tell from the city’s website, so we really need to bring the city into the 21st century and have a much better way for citizens to civically engage with their government,” said the Councilman.

But the city doesn’t have a policy in place yet. Advocates including Californians Aware, who is also helping the City, hope to have one soon. (California Forward recently spoke with Donna Frye, the president about their efforts)

“We really believe this is going to be a catalyst for civic engagement as well as activating the technology community in a way that’s beneficial for everybody,” said Kersey.


Cheryl Getuiza

All stories by: Cheryl Getuiza