Community members with an interest in open civic data in Toronto have a unique opportunity to engage City government, to learn about what the City is planning and to participate in a meaningful way in helping to shape the future of Toronto as a “city that thinks like the web”.

Toronto Open Data Lab, part of the Toronto Innovations Showcase
Monday, November 2nd, 2009
1:00 – 4:30pm
City Hall Council Chamber and Members Lounge

Special Guest Speaker: Peter Corbett, iStrategy Labs and AppsforDemocracy.org

The Open Data Lab is an opportunity to explore the innovation possibilities of open civic data in Toronto. Join City subject matter and technology experts, community stakeholders and talented members of Toronto’s vibrant technology and design communities in an interactive and collaborative afternoon imagining commercial, social and civic applications of the City’s newly launched open data program.

This extended series of sessions kicks off with an aspirational talk about the Future of Open Cities from Peter Corbett, one of the open data leaders behind AppsforDemocracy.org and the success of Washington DC’s open data program. We will also hear from City of Toronto CIO Dave Wallace about the launch of Toronto.ca/Open and the future direction of Toronto’s open data program, and invited guests from the community will have an opportunity to inspire us with their open data dreams.

Participants will then have the opportunity to explore the first datasets to be released to the public from Toronto’s open data program. Facilitated by ChangeCamp organizer Mark Kuznicki, this is a unique opportunity that organizers hope will generate much interest and spark some ideas for new applications that will demonstrate the kind of value that open data can create for the City government and the community at large.

If you don’t want to miss this, or if you have an Ignite-style presentation proposal on the theme My Open Data Dream App, please let me know using this form:

Backgrounder

In April of this year, Mayor David Miller announced at the Mesh Conference [iTunes] [Podcast] that the City would open the vaults of its vast data and publish an initial number of City datasets in machine-readable open access format through a new home on the web at Toronto.ca/Open in fall of this year.

It was an announcement that was highly anticipated, from the challenge posed by Mozilla’s Mark Surman at the City’s Web 2.0 Summit in the fall of 2008, through the very popular session on open data hosted by Senior Advisor to the Mayor Ryan Merkeley at ChangeCampTO in January of this year, momentum had been built up towards the Mayor’s announcement.

A lot did and didn’t happen since then. The Open Data movement has gained momentum internationally and in Canada. San Francisco launched DataSF.org. O’Reilly’s Gov 2.0 Summit has accelerated this movement. The project “Code for America” was launched. The Vancouver Open 3 resolution made key principles of the open city part of government policy. Other cities in Canada have been making strides, including Nanaimo and Ottawa. The world of geo-spatial data got a big shot in the arm with the relaunch of GeoGratis for free, open access mapping data. Microsoftie and DemoCamp godfather David Crow put a call out for open data ideas. Greg Wilson at University of Toronto has built an innovative graduate level computer science course around the possibilities of open civic data, which is very exciting, and City CIO Dave Wallace came to the first class this week to brief the class about the Open Data project.

With all this growing momentum, the folks inside the City who are charged with implementing this vision and meeting these expectations were dealt a major blow in the form of this summer’s Toronto municipal workers strike. For six weeks staff were out of commission and managers were filling in for staff under in some cases nightmarish conditions to ensure essential services were kept up and running. Only now can you say that the effects of the strike have been unraveled as people get caught up on the backlogs of day to day operations. Nonewithstanding this blow, they have pulled out the stops to deliver on the Mayor’s commitment and begin opening municipal data in a meaningful way that can demonstrate value to the community, the City and it’s many stakeholders.

City CIO Dave Wallace asked for my assistance in advising the City on its community engagement efforts on the Open Data project. I have been looking forward to begin the process of inviting community participation in the project. This event on November 2nd at City Hall is the first major opportunity to bring together the people who can bring life to data being freed. It is a beginning, not an end. It is part of a much longer term process of integrating open civic data in the everyday operations of City government and into the lifeblood of the community.

These are very exciting times, and I can’t wait to see you be part of it. I hope you consider joining us.