Beyond the Supply Side: Availability, Use, and Impact of Municipal Open Data in the U.S.

Authors: Bev Wilson*, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Cong Cong, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Topics: Applied Geography
Keywords: open data, urban planning, civic technology
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: 8222, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


While the number of open government data initiatives has increased considerably over the past decade, the impact of these initiatives with respect to government accountability, civic engagement, and economic innovation is uncertain (Johnson et al., 2017). Recent studies have been critical of the “bias toward the supply side” and lack of “sufficient attention to the user perspective” in the way that open government data initiatives are implemented (Dawes et al., 2016). While the commitment to open data is not uniform across local governments, it has the potential to create both commercial and social value (Attard et al., 2015) with private firms, civic hackers, and non-profit organizations as key actors already leveraging these resources. This paper documents the types of government data that are being made open to the public and relies on semi-structured interviews to begin understanding how those data are being used to support planning and decision-making in U.S. cities. We use application programming interfaces (APIs) to collect information on local governments across the U.S. that maintain open data portals with two of the most common open data platforms (i.e., Socrata and CKAN). We summarize and visualize the data resources provided by municipalities in terms of categories, frequency of updates, and demand proxies like page views and download statistics. Finally, we conduct a series of semi-structured interviews in five cities with representatives of the government, private sector, and community (e.g., NGOs, civic hackers) to better understand who is using these resources and for what purposes.

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