Moncton is putting itself at a competitive disadvantage by failing to open up more of its data to the public, according to two high-tech officials.
City councillors are going to be urged at a council meeting on Monday night to adopt an open data protocol and catch up to many of Canada's largest cities.
Doug Robertson, the president and chief executive officer of Venn Innovation Inc., and Andrew MacKinnon, a partner in Moncton’s Blaze Studios, say Moncton needs to catch up to other cities in Canada when it comes to sharing public data online.
MacKinnon, a software developer, said 21 of 33 of Canada’s largest cities have one or more open data catalogues available to its citizens.
MacKinnon said it’s a “competitive necessity” for Moncton to get in line with how other Canadian cities are posting public data.
“From a business perspective, it makes it a lot easier to recruit and keep technical workers if they feel like they are in a city that is progressive when it comes to technology,” he said.
The New Brunswick Social Policy Research Network recently hosted an open data conference in Fredericton. Nick Scott, the organization's executive director, said governments can improve services by fostering a culture of open data.
Scott described open data as "publicly available data that can be universally and readily accessed, used, and redistributed free of charge. Open data is released in ways that protects private, personal, or proprietary information. It is structured for usability and computability.”
Practical uses for open data
In Moncton, Robertson, a former Moncton city councillor, said free access to municipal information allows developers to create apps and websites that can be useful to people.
“Any number of things from why hasn't my street been plowed to questions about anything from police servicing to sidewalk clearing," he said.
MacKinnon said he can see some very practical uses for public data that is currently held by the city.
For instance, MacKinnon said he would like to see an app that tells people when the buses are running.
“When we started encouraging our staff here to start using transit, we found that those tools weren't available here,” he said.
MacKinnon said Fredericton and Halifax have already created apps that show transit users in those cities how the buses are running.