community meetings and publishing blog posts that
showcase project benefits. His team also constantly
communicates with other government agencies and
departments, pointing to successful projects—such
as the dataset that provides Londoners with real-time transport information—to convey the benefits
of releasing data.
In Chicago, Illinois, USA, the city government’s
Data Portal program engages the biggest stakeholder of all: the general public. The program’s staff
attends community meetings to gather suggestions
from residents for new dataset projects.
“We reach out to see what they might be interested in,” says Tom Schenk, chief data officer, the
Department of Innovation and Technology, City of
Chicago. The Data Portal offers nearly 600 datasets,
including a list of every reported crime in the city
since 2001 and another of the city’s 32,000 employees and their salaries (the portal’s most popular
dataset). The team recently launched a dataset
detailing the summer conditions of the adjacent
Lake Michigan, such as water temperature and
Public-private collaboration is proving equally
Knowing the Limits
vital to the Civic Tech and Data Collaborative, a
two-year, US$450,000 project launched in St. Louis,
Missouri, USA in May 2015. “The collaborative
intends to harness technology to help people better
navigate the municipal court system in St. Louis,”
says Tara Pham, project manager, Civic Tech and
Data Collaborative. As it solicits public input via in-
person surveys, social media and other channels, the
project team will identify and ultimately implement
a suite of open-source tools, such as an online guide
to the court system.
While open data projects promise access to an
abundance of information, they also carry the risk
of impinging upon residents’ privacy. “About 80
percent of a city’s data has some kind of personal
aspect to it,” Mr. Collinge says.
The challenge for project teams is to provide
datasets that are interesting and useful to the public
“without compromising anyone’s privacy or safety,”
Mr. Schenk says. On a dataset project that details
buildings’ energy usage, the Data Portal team made
sure that specific homes’ energy use and energy bills
weren’t published. But it kept information detailed
enough to be useful to the public and to researchers.
Open data teams also contend with the challenge
of how to deploy finite resources for a potentially
endless stream of worthwhile data projects. “This
is a very serious problem for cities: how to avoid
projects that pose long-term liability to staff,” Mr.
To avoid overtaxing its programmers with each
new dataset project, the Data Portal team launched
a one-year project to create a framework that makes
it easier to upload data to the portal. Rather than
DARK SIDE OF THE MOON PARTNERS
Russia is partnering with Europe’s space agency on a
project to send an unmanned craft to the moon’s unexplored and perpetually dark south pole—a marked
departure from the secrecy and competition that
characterized the Cold War-era space race.
The new cooperative effort “feels like the begin-
ning of the return to the moon, but it is also starting
something new in terms of overall exploration of the
solar system,” Richard Fisackerly, a systems engineer
at the European Space Agency (ESA), told BBC News.
The project, expected to be formally approved
late this year and launched in 2020, will search for
water—in ice form—and other materials to determine
whether the moon could someday support a perma-
nent human settlement.
“The south pole of the
moon is unlike anywhere we
have been before,” James
Carpenter, ESA’s lead scientist
on the project, told the BBC.
The area is one of the coldest
spots in the solar system.
Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, will provide the
spacecraft, while the ESA will offer a laser-guided
landing system and a laboratory to analyze samples
gathered from the moon’s surface.
The Soviet Union’s last lunar mission was in 1976.
Russia and the European Space Agency are
partnering to send an unmanned craft to the moon.
to the public
—Tom Schenk, Department of
Innovation and Technology,
City of Chicago, Chicago,