Brandon and OpenData

Posted by in bdnmb, OpenData

Ok, I’ll admit it. I’m a big data nerd.

A few years ago when the City of Brandon created their open data platform, there was some general excitement (at least from a few of us in town), about our local government finally becoming more transparent.

A few years back even before that, in 2010,  Grant Hamiltonexpressed his suggestions about what the council (then new) should provide to it’s constituents. It was something that I couldn’t agree with more. Making data available to the general public, in an effective and fast matter, provides so much benefit.

At first their catalogue simply had csv’s and html data available. Thankfully within a few months, they had added some api endpoints for developers to use

Bravo! Although the catalogue was slim at best, I was hopeful they would be adding more as the months went on. I dreamt of easily accessible information like crime data, ticket data, anything you could imagine. But as the months turned into years, I became more and more disappointed. Sure they’ve added a few more catalogues to it, but what good is current information if it’s never updated.

Take for example the music in the parks catalogue. It was updated early 2013 with that years list of all the acts playing. Sweet. 2014 rolls around, the City of Brandon makes nice brand new website for it, but the catalogue, never gets touched. Why? I hope the answer isn’t “because the information is now on the new website”. The website should be pulling that information from the open data catalogue, so that the catalogue is the source of the information.

Another great example is the daily water levels. In summer of 2014 – Brandon had high water levels again. Many people looked for the water level each morning to know if they should stay home and sandbag for that day, or if it’s finally going down. Instead of providing this information through one source, the open data catalogue only updated the day after. Any current day levels, were kept on a static website. Why not just update the open data catalogue and query that data on the webpage?

And yet another great examples is when City of Brandon provided Council Inquiries (or is it Enquiry?) online for people to view. During council meetings, if a council member had a question about a certain build, construction, etc, they could ask and sometimes an answer could be given right then and there. Sometimes, the answer would take a few days to come back, but would be available easily online and updated. Awesome.

Roll forward a few years and in fall of 2014, they had removed it.

1 step forward, 2 steps backwards.

Over the next little while, I’m going to try and create some web projects to show the value of what can be done with information that is easily accessible. Hopefully, that will show our “little city that could” that it can live in the year 2015.