OpenGov Voices: ‘Open Independence’ brings a wealth of data to Missourians

Jason Newkirk, IT Manager of Independence, Mo.

In June of 2013, Independence, Mo., launched its open data portal, Open Independence. At that time, the goal for Open Independence was to take data that could already be found on the city’s website and provide it in several standardized formats. Website visitors could already search for information like building permits, business licenses and restaurant violations, but there wasn’t an easy way to access any of these datasets in their entirety. Implementing Open Independence provided a centralized location for Independence to begin publishing entire datasets. Currently most of our datasets can be viewed in a web page, downloaded as a csv, or accessed as a RESTful service.

Not long after we launched Open Independence, I was contacted by a local developer wanting to develop a Windows app that made use of the restaurant inspection violation dataset. This developer kept me updated with his project. I was excited to see our data being used so quickly after its launch. I have also seen several instances where city staff has made use of the data published on Open Independence because it is so easy to access and analyze.

Being selected by Bloomberg Philanthropies to be a part of its What Works Cities program allowed Independence to take another step toward our goal of open data; we were eager to see the fruits of this partnership and how working with Bloomberg Philanthropies would enhance our dedication to publishing datasets on our website. During our partnership, we’ve created a policy to formalize our commitment to publishing open datasets. The open data policy establishes methods for identifying and prioritizing data that should be published. The policy also increases internal awareness to the importance of publishing quality datasets.

A reproduction of the Liberty Bell at the Truman Library in Independence, Mo.

Now that an open data policy has been put into effect, the commitment of the city of Independence to open data is solidified. Open data is no longer just an IT effort; it is an organization-wide effort.

As we continue our open data efforts, we expect to increase the number of datasets as well as improve their quality. I also look forward to seeing the varying applications for this data and anticipate that our commitment to open data will benefit both the city employees and the community of Independence.

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