Open City Initiative
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Region : North America
National GDP Per Capita (USD) : 46,260.71 (IMF, 2018)
City Population: 899,447
Year Implemented : 2014
National Gini Index : 34 (World Bank, 2013)
Tags : GOVERNANCE DATA CITIZEN PARTICIPATION
Technologies Utilized : Cloud-based solutions, Open source software, Website, Wi-Fi, Mobile application
Funding Source : Government
Project Cost : CAD 1,327,354
Project Savings :
Planned Project Duration : Ongoing
KPIs : Number of data assets, Number of users, Number of datasets downloaded, App downloads
Project Context and Overview
In 2014, the City of Edmonton launched the Open City Initiative after seeing a positive reaction to the Open Data Portal launched in 2010. The Open Data Portal increased government transparency and allowed the city to share data in a convenient and centralized place. In 2015, the Edmonton City Council adopted the Open City Policy, which included conducive legislation and a comprehensive framework to carry out the ambitious Initiative. The Initiative was also included in, “The Way Ahead Plan,” a document that outlines Edmonton’s aspirations for the future and defines the goals they hope to accomplish by 2040.
The Open City Initiative is made up of several city-wide programs:
1. The Citizen Dashboard website serves as a citizen participation website as well as an information sharing platform where citizens can access current municipal service performance indicators in the categories of transportation, livability, environment, urban form, economy, and finance.
2. The Edmonton Insight Community gives citizens a voice as it allows people to fill out surveys on municipal issues online. All survey results are published on the Open Data Portal and are used as valuable data for the City Council’s decision making process.
3. The Open Budget website provides information on the city’s revenues and expenditures in a way that is easily understandable by all citizens.
4. Open Science engages the Edmonton research and post-secondary education community in solving the city’s social and urban issues. The program is run jointly with the Analytics Centre of Excellence (ACE) and the Open Data Team.
5. Open Access and Open City Wi-Fi service are connectivity programs that aim to give all city residents access to the internet.
6. The Edmonton 311 website and mobile app help increase accessibility to municipal services and allow citizens to submit their complaints and suggestions.
Project Planning and Implementation
The Open City Initiative was launched by the City’s Executive Committee, comprised of the mayor and the members of the city council. The Corporate Leadership Team, comprised of the City Manager and General Managers, revised the plan and made some final recommendations. The City’s Smart City Governance Committee, made up of the Senior Leadership Team guided by the Deputy City Manager and the Chief Financial Officer, advices on the next steps in the implementation on the Initiative and is allowed to make ground-level decisions. When relevant, the internal special interest committees and the open engagement community are consulted. Design and implementation was led by the Open City and Innovation Branch, which continuously works on the project as the official overseer.
During the initial planning stages, the city held an Open City Policy consultation through the Edmonton Insight Community website. Out of the 876 participants, 87 percent identified as general public/residents, nine percent identified as local government leaders, and four percent were representatives of local businesses.
Edmonton constantly collaborates with local, regional, and national partners to develop innovative projects to meet the needs of citizens, businesses, and government. The Metro Edmonton Open Data (MEOD) Group is a network of municipalities, community partners, and higher education institutions that explore the potential for collaboration and information sharing. The city also works with non-profit organizations including GeoThink, Open Data Exchange (ODX) Advocates, Open North, and Open Data Impact Map.
Personnel-related costs - CAD 1,011,388
Data visualization software - CAD 164,966
Vendor hosted Software as a Service (SaaS) solution for Open Data Portal - CAD 148,000
Total Costs - CAD 1,327,354
Every year the city appoints a project team in charge of defining annual targets and reporting on the Open City Initiative’s performance at the end of the year. Given the variety of programs the city undertakes, project teams have to develop different targets and metrics for each case. The annual reports are thoroughly checked to make sure they align with the timeline for the city’s The Way Ahead Plan.
The Open Data Program has directly impacted how public policy decisions are made, as well as resulted in the creative use of data by citizens, developers, and businesses. In 2015, just after one year of implementation, the city had 927 datasets, 139,047 (53% returning) users, 28,987 data downloads (excluding near-real time transit data), and 950,917,988 near-real time transit data downloads. In 2016, the portal had 1,241 datasets, 150,998(56% returning) users, 427,785 downloads (excluding near-real time transit data), and 7,541,568,461 near-real time transit data downloads.
More than 250 students from the University of Alberta and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology have participated in the Open Science Program.
The Open City Wi-Fi service has been expanded to include 83 locations, including 15 Capital Line Light Rail Transit (LRT) stations, 37 public facilities, and 17 libraries. The city is evaluating more locations for feasibility.
The Edmonton 311 mobile app has been downloaded over 23,535 times by iOS users alone and has received 28,588 reports.
The city is working toward a Smart City Strategy and building an ecosystem that benefits citizens, government, academia, and industry. The Analytics Centre of Excellence and Open Science Program hope to expand and launch more collaborative projects with academia and startups.
Recommendations for Transfer
The Analytics Centre of Excellence (ACE) constantly shares best practices and collaborates with organizations, including Singapore (Yishun Junior College), Federal RCMP, City of Ottawa, City of Seattle, City of Calgary, City of Saint John, Region of Waterloo, and Toronto Public Health.
Edmonton has created a free online Open Data Toolkit that includes a series of documents used in supporting the Open City Initiative to provide guidance and advice to any cities designing their own Open Data or Open City strategy.
Careful planning and consultation with citizens is a crucial step in developing any smart city solution. Cities can use crowdsourcing websites or apps to host surveys or collect ideas from citizens, provided that their data remain secure. WeGO has developed its own in-house solution called the Civic Participation System in a more bare bones and open source platform for seamless transfer and dissemination to its members. All cities are encouraged to use open source software since it helps reduce costs, and it goes without mention that any smart city solution should be implemented after or along with a connectivity plan to bring internet access to all citizens.
Figures and Images