City Hall Gets Naked: David Eaves and Vancouver's Open Source Era (part one)
David Eaves is one of the main reasons Vancouver City Council passed a motion for Open Data, Open Standards and Open Source. When he wrote about this motion in his blog he said, “I certainly see this motion as the cornerstone to transforming Vancouver into an open city, or as my friend Surman puts it, a city that thinks like the web.”
As of this motion, City Hall has become more transparent. Citizens can now access more information than ever before. I met up with Eaves to discuss how this new technology will change the landscape of information in Vancouver.
VO: What is Open Source Data?
Eaves: Open Data involves getting collected data online. The data portal, for me, is a place where we centralize information so that people can find it. Data can involve surveys of anything. These surveys could range from how many homeless people there are to the geographical location of infrastructure in the city.
This data can also involve the data that the city generates, such as budgets and agendas. I want to enable anyone to track what’s going on.
VO: How will people interact with this information?
Eaves: The data that is generated by the city can be tracked and analyzed. This can allow people to find inefficiencies or demographics that are being overlooked. This allows citizens to get involved in what’s happening in the city. Whether this involves friendly or hostile advice, it provides an opportunity to make things better.
Vantrash is a great early example of what’s possible. It gives you email or twitter prompts reminding you when garbage day is.
VO: I was reading that it is possible to map out crime levels with this data. Is that true?
Eaves: You can access something like that in Washington DC. They have the largest data set of any city in the world and they have a cool system of applications. There’s an iphone application that has a needle and dial. One side is green and one side is red. The red side indicates high crime levels. As you move through parts of the city with more crime, the needle moves into the red. As you move into areas with less crime, the needle moves into the green. It takes your location and maps it against the crime data of that area.
There are also applications that indicate where parking meters are empty, so that you can find empty parking spaces. This prevents people from driving around in circles. Therefore carbon emissions are reduced.
VO: This technology seems to be politically neutral, with no particular cause being pushed.
Eaves: The City may choose to push for certain types of causes. But ultimately, people should be able to do whatever the hell they want with this data…as long as they’re not breaking the law. If I want to make an application that helps me get to work faster, I should be able to do that. If I want to make an application that helps everyone get to work faster, I should be able to do that too.
Basically, the city wants to release information in hopes that people will do something creative with it.
Stay tuned for the next segment of my conversation with David Eaves: “The Death of Journalism.”