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OpenGov Voices: The Open Data Ecosystem Thrives in Philadelphia

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the guest blogger and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not reflect the opinions of the Sunlight Foundation or any employee thereof. Sunlight Foundation is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information within the guest blog.Pam Selle

Pam Selle is a News Apps Developer and Community Evangelist for AxisPhilly, a nonprofit investigative news organization that prioritizes work in the public interest. She is a resident of Philadelphia, speaks at national and regional technical events, and blogs at thewebivore.com. Follow her at @pamasaur.

Philadelphia is known as a leader in the open government movement – the city lays claim to the second Chief Data Officer in the country (Sunlight OpenGov Champion Mark Headd), is a two-time Code for America host city, is home to an active Code for America Brigade and has social good hackathons at least every month, sometimes every week. There’s a strong interest in creating applications to inform and empower citizens with apps such as Lobbying.ph, PhillySNAP and Baldwin using public data for their respective purposes.

In February, the city released the AVI calculator, an online app that helps residents determine real estate taxes under a new policy that went into effect. The city also made the data powering the calculator available as an API. This allowed AxisPhilly, an independent, nonprofit news organization, use the AVI calculator API and transform it from just informational to a discussion tool.

Axis PhillyThe website appsforphilly.org, which lists open source projects in Philadelphia, lists these two projects side by side. So how did a city government and a news organization end up next to each other on this list of open source projects? What’s the story behind Philadelphia making a web app and releasing the data to enable tools like AxisPhilly’s? For one, both projects are open source and allow for code-sharing. You can access the code for both the City of Philadelphia’s AVI project and AxisPhilly’s map project template on GitHub. AxisPhilly’s project also leverages the property parcels open data set.

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