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City brings data to life through its Open Data Portal

The City of Cape Town has breathed new life into the large amount of data it has on hand through the Open Data Portal. Since its launch in 2015, the Open Data Portal has grown in popularity as a source of raw data that is used to develop applications, among a number of other uses.

The City's Open Data Portal was launched with 29 datasets. As at the end of last month, this number has increased to 106 datasets available free of charge to members of the public in a useable format. There have been more than 54 000 downloads off the portal since February 2015 which equates to, on average, 1 500 downloads per month.

The Open Data Portal seeks to promote the use of the City's data for broader social and economic benefit. It has been used as a source for events such as hackathons, data quests and data challenges. At these events, stakeholders come together to apply their skills to the different ways in which data can be used. A number of ideas are generated at these forums and some develop into applications or products.

'The portal functionality has been incrementally enhanced. Additional plans are afoot to further improve the user experience of the portal as well as the content. One of the initiatives is to create a collaborative space on the portal for users to share information or case studies on how they have made use of the City's data,' said the City's Mayoral Committee Member for Corporate Services, Councillor Raelene Arendse.

The following new features are being planned for the enhanced portal:

Grouping of information by theme so that people can easily find and download data in a variety of open formats

The ability to view spatial data on a map and preview data in a tabular format before downloading

The ability to filter data based on specific attributes before downloading

Aggregating geospatial data by using charts and graphs

Providing an option for users to mark certain datasets as favourites for easy access and for related datasets to be listed with all search results

The new portal functionality allows for automated updates of data from the City's Geographic Information System which means more up-to-date data being available to users

One of the key outcomes at a recent open data workshop was the establishment of an open data user group that will encourage discussion and an exchange of ideas on current and future datasets to be published on the portal. The user group will also allow the City to engage with users to better understand the data needs that might exist. This will keep the City vigilant and responsive to the needs of data users. The user group will also contribute towards better data governance in the City by raising any issues with regard to data quality or identifying data gaps which can be addressed through the open data steering committee.

'We have set a goal to become a more data-driven organisation in line with our Organisational Development and Transformation Plan. Our data is available in a useable format at no charge and by opening up our datasets, we increase transparency and accountability. This in turn empowers residents and civil society organisations. We encourage more businesses and innovators to access the free data to make more resident-facing services available on digital platforms. This will help to further enhance service delivery to our residents,' said Councillor Arendse.

Many of the suggestions that have been received from users (such as the need to visualise data before downloading) are reflected in the current redevelopment of the portal. Users have also expressed the need for more contextual information (metadata) about the datasets.

'Based on available information, the data is being accessed by researchers, small businesses, professional consultancies, non-governmental organisations, entrepreneurs and residents. It is no longer business as usual at the City. We are looking to become a more evidence-based organisation that will be driven by data, while focusing tirelessly on our customers.

'Our investment in technology platforms has positioned us well in terms of this goal. The growing volumes of data generated by and available to the City, which will likely be added to given the increasing use of smart technology, mean that we are in a good position to use our data to understand the needs of our customers better, increase response times, monitor trends and manage performance. We are getting on with building a data-driven organisation and being the most digitally connected city on the African continent,' said Councillor Arendse.

Source: City of Cape Town

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