All five of the largest U.S. cities now have open data policies

Houston City Hall

Houston City Hall

Houston recently joined the rest of the top-five largest cities in the country in having an open data policy.

New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago — the three largest cities in the country — and Philadelphia — the fifth-largest city — all had open data policies by the end of 2013. Now, Houston — the fourth-largest city — has joined those ranks on Sept. 18 with an open data policy signed by the mayor.

Houston already has an open data portal with more than 160 datasets spanning a range of topics. The policy aims to help ensure that the city’s more than 2.1 million residents receive timely access to usable data being released online through that portal.

How does Houston’s policy stack up to best practices?

Here’s what the policy does:

Here is what the next iteration of the policy should also include:

Not having these elements in the open data policy itself doesn’t mean Houston can’t follow through on these best practices. It can, and should, include these points it the policy guidance to make sure the open data initiative will be as effective and impactful as possible.

Next steps

Now that the five largest cities in the country have open data policies, there is an opportunity for them to compete on open data policy implementation. A policy’s strength is in its implementation, so New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Philadelphia should all be working diligently to ensure that their policies live up to their full potential.

Houston may be the newcomer to the group, but many in the city are clearly excited about the new policy and the opportunities it presents. We hope the city will take full advantage of having a policy in place to move forward with best practices and iterate on the existing policy to make it even stronger in the future.