Collaboration in Civic Spheres

King County: Ordinance Creating Open Data Web Site

by Andrew Hart June 15th, 2010

SUMMARY: On May 17, the Metropolitan King County Council passed Ordinance 16838, establishing the county will create an unrestricted public website providing access to high value data sets.

BACKGROUND: The ordinance comes at a time where municipalities are making more and more data “open” to encourage civic participation in politics and government transparency. The proliferation of web and mobile technology has allowed cities such as New York, San Francisco, and Seattle to release public data to software developers, and numerous applications have been created. King County Executive Dow Constantine has been an advocate for greater constituent access to government, greater government transparency, and facilitating opportunities for private-sector software developers to build applications based on government data sets.

KEY DOCUMENT: King County Ordinance 16838, May 17, 2010.

KEY FINDINGS: The ordinance requires the county to strive to publish existing, high value data sets appropriate for unrestricted public access on a single web site. By August 1, 2010, a list of the initial high-value data sets and procedural documentation are to be filed with the council clerk. The web site is to be online by November 1, 2010.

High value data sets are defined as related to core county services, and which “improve public knowledge of the agency and its operations, increase government accountability and responsiveness or create economic opportunity.” High value data sets, as defined by the ordinance, will not typically include documents, emails, or calendars. The “open format” requirement means no particular software or hardware should be required to view a data set. The open data Web site will include information on each data set, terms of use, information contact, and a mechanism for public input on usefulness and prioritization of initial data sets.

RELATED: Although the official open data Web site is not yet live, more information is available at a working Web page on the initiative, which includes a press release on and video of a June 8, 2010 open data workshop hosted by King County.

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