Thursday, November 15, 2012

Open Data in Kentucky: An Overview (Part 1)

As the national and international movement for open data and government transparency progresses, I'd like to take a moment and discuss the state of things here in Kentucky.

Open Data Definition

First let's define "open data." To me this means that the raw data is available in a bulk download format, like CSV, as opposed to online web databases or PDFs.  These later types of data are more part of government 'transparency' initiatives, rather than open data.  Open data should also be as complete as possible, including historic data, to the extent that privacy laws allow.  

Financial Data

This is the highest priority for government transparency pushes, and with good reason.  There is a great amount of open data regarding government financial records at Kentucky's Transparency Portal, KY Citizen Auditor Initiative,  Louisville's LouieStat,  Louisville Salary and Expenditure data, and other similar data in KY's larger cities.

Public Transit Data

Covington KY was the first to open its public transit feed to the public, with Lexington, then Louisville following.  This allows Google and other companies to absorb public transit schedules and routes to allow the building of direction and travel time applications.  Almost every county in KY has public transit, but most have not made this data available.

Property Data

Property open data is in need of a big overhaul in KY.  Kentucky is unique in the USA because it has county Property Valuation Administrators (PVAs) that asses the taxable values of all property in their county.  Interestingly, these are state-run organizations, with state-level rules and recommendations for opening data and data pricing requests.  Not one of the 120 counties have open property value data. Instead, each charge for bulk downloads and extended property data info.  Some have online text searches, and a few have map visualizations usually run by local or out-of-state vendors, of varying quality and usefulness.

Other Data

Kentucky has an excellent car accident database, and you can grab very detailed open data from it.  Actually, I'd say this is the most complete non-GIS open data set in KY, though the web interface is a bit cumbersome.

The KY Sex Offender database has data available online, but there is no way to download the raw data.  I suspect part of this is because of the State Police's use of a closed third-party tool, which is unfortunate for us all.

GIS Open Data

GIS data is what helps make city government more efficient - it maps everything a city government needs to know about: snow routes, power lines, water lines, property boundaries, street names, and so much more.  But, it's really only useful internally, and so far most KY city govs haven't pushed that data out to visualizations on websites, except Louisville, though Lexington has clunky version.  And no one has opened their GIS data for free download, until Lexington did last week.  Another bright spot is at the state level, where KY has not only visualizations of their GIS data online, but also allows open data downloads.

Geospacial Open Data

Now we get to the kind of data I am interested in and aggregate on Your Mapper.  CSV or OMG Standard formatted raw hyperlocal data that is specific to the street address level.  Things like crime reports, 311 calls, business licenses, restaurant health ratings, building permits, bike racks, parking meters, property values, recent home sales, vacant properties, and foreclosures.  This is where I'd like to draw up some friendly city comparisons in the spirit of cooperative competition.  I'll throw in GIS too since Lexington has done such a good job with it.

In my next blog post, I'll get into a detailed comparison, so stay tuned.

Any other open data I've missed across the state?  Let me know in the comments and I'll update the post.

1 comment:

Jason C said...

very comprehensive.. you have a 'one stop shop' as it relates to the state of KY open data.. appreciate the info! Look forward to knowing more..