Roughly four months ago, the City of Cape Town approved a plan to create an open data portal for the city, and today that portal was officially launched.

The aim of the open data portal is to “make government more transparent” by allowing the public to request a variety of data sets, such as Economic Areas Management Programme (ECAMP) data, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) viewers and statistical reports and underlying data.

“The City is making its data available to all for free and in a useable format. This will enable innovation, as entrepreneurs are empowered to use the data to create new applications. As a City that believes in transparency, making this data available will empower residents to hold us accountable,” Cape Town mayor Patricia De Lille during a speech.

The portal has been met with some skepticism in the past, so an Open Data Steering Committee has been appointed to monitor and implement the policy. Nine members will meet on a quarterly basis to approve the data sets that will populate the portal.

Open data activist and head of Code4SA, Adi Eyal explained that it is an important step for Cape Town “as marketing exercise to show that the city is trying to be transparent, accountable and promotes active citizenry”.

He added that the portal will allow city residents to better understand the work that the City is doing and help them engage more with the City, while it “allows app developers, civil society, media, etc to re-package data in a way that their constituencies can better understand. It can improve the city’s own internal processes by ensuring that data produced is clean and conforms to standard formats.”

The first Steering Committee meeting took place late last week, and already added 25 sets of data.

“These include City budget data and the location and boundaries of all district parks, community parks, cemeteries, and MyCiTi bus stations and routes. Information about tenders which have been awarded can also be found on the portal,” De Lille added.

If you want to get your hands on a number of data sets from within the City of Cape Town, all you have to do is head on over to the Open Data Portal homepage, and click on ‘suggest a data set’.

“We believe that this will not only enhance transparency and accountability, but further improve the competitiveness of the broader economy of Cape Town. Our Open Data Portal is another bold stride that we are taking to create an enabling environment which will attract investment that generates economic growth and creates jobs,” De Lille concluded.

[Image – Cape Town Long Exposure, CC 2.0 by Meraj Chhaya]