If you haven’t already noticed, opening up data is the latest trend in municipal government. It started when Washington, DC released hundreds of government databased with the DC Data Catalog then got a boost by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco issuing the first city-level executive order opening up data in 2009. Just last week, New York City, the most populated city in America (with countless data streams and data points) voted to pass the Open Data Bill, lauded as the most comprehensive open data legislation in the country. Basically, if you are a city government without a “data.(city name).gov” page, forget about trying to sit at the cool kids table at the next Conference of Mayors luncheon.
But what does all this data, previously locked away under layers of bureaucracy, actually mean to the public at large? That’s the question a panel of civic leaders, journalists and innovators will try to address this evening at a panel hosted by the New York World at the Columbia Journalism School. The conversation — dubbed “Accountability, Transparency and Journalism in the Digital City” — will be moderated by Alex Howard of O’Reilly Radar and will feature Philip Ashlock, OpenPlans; Andrew Hoppin, New Amsterdam Ideas and former Chief Information Officer, New York State Senate; New York City Council Member Gale Brewer; John Kaehny, Reinventing Albany; Michael Powell, The New York Times and me, representing the Sunlight Foundation.