Open Data Initiative
Frequently Asked Questions
Open source software is developed using an open and collaborative process and licensed under terms that generally give its contributors and users alike the rights to use, copy, modify and redistribute the software. Open source software development often includes not only commercial vendors, but universities, governments, end user organizations and communities of enthusiasts around the world. As a result, open source software generally offers lower licensing costs, more rapid development, vendor choice, greater flexibility and improved security in addition to access to the underlying code itself.
Open source is not only a way to develop software, but also a social contract, an ideology, consistent with the philosophy and values of sharing and cooperation.
The Linux operating system, Firefox web browser, the Apache web server and OpenOffice suite are just some of the open source software offerings millions of users worldwide depend on each day. Tens of millions more use web services built on open source platforms and applications.
No. The City is not mandating the use of open source software solutions, but it is pledging to consider and evaluate open source solutions as a viable alternative to commercial solutions in the procurement process whenever a proven open source software solution exists.
Government has a responsibility to be as transparent, efficient and cost-effective as possible in its operations and to maximize taxpayers' dollars. To help meet that obligation, local agencies should by all means be encouraged to consider open source software in their procurement processes. But ultimately, government IT managers – just as in the private sector - should decide what technology best meet their needs.
The Portland region enjoys a long history of incubating, attracting and sustaining a very large talent pool for open source development. The Portland region is home to many of the premier providers of open source technology and related activities, including: dozens of user groups; top companies; top development projects and labs; nationally recognized programs at Portland State and Oregon State universities; both large and small software conference and "unconference" events such as OSCon, LinuxCon, Open Source Bridge and BarCamp, WhereCamp, DrupalCamp, and WordCamp.
Support of open source, open data, and open standards is the first step to attaining more open and transparent government. The City of Portland is seeking to assume the role of an enabler; working with regional public, private, and non-profit organizations to provide a data platform to enable the good will of others in the community to contribute the best ideas and innovations to address civic needs and solutions to problems.
The Application Design Contest will help to incentivize the development of applications using the open datasets. Freely available applications on popular platforms, such as Google maps, iPhone, and others are expected to address civic needs and solutions for which the whole community benefits.
The City of Portland is working with a number of community leaders, business and group organizers, open source developers, and other interested representatives from the public and private sectors, and academia who are already involved in helping grow open source software development in Portland. A volunteer citizen advisory board was formed based on specific resource needs of the project in addition to a pool of people encountered through meetings with community groups and their representatives.
Open datasets will be soft launched between now and the beginning of the contest. Once placed in their intended hosting environment on a publicly-accessible server, a data portal website will be created to facilitate linked access to the datasets and their related documentation coming from the many regional suppliers, including various City bureaus, TriMet, Metro, Portland Public Schools, and others.
Initial datasets are expected to include regional maps and boundaries, zoning, business and building permits, crime data, and many others. All data is expected to be available in a number of structured, machine-readable formats for programmatic access, including XLS, CVS, RSS, XML, SHP, KML, etc., depending on the type of data involved.
The City is working with regional partners to launch the contest later this year, after the open datasets and data portal have been achieved. The exact format, duration, rules, and associated prize awards are still under planning by the City and the project advisory board.
The contest is expected to be inspired by other similar programs, however, such as Washington DC's "Apps for Democracy" http://www.appsfordemocracy.org and the Sunlight Lab's "Apps for America" http://www.sunlightlabs.com/contests/appsforamerica contests.