Chicago Using Github Has Potential For More Citizen Participation in Government

Github is not just a site for managing code, for use by programmers. The platform can host code, data, markup, markdown and files like images, pdf, etc. Basically anything you can store in a file, and apply versioning to, you can put Github to work, helping you manage collaboration and the assets evolution.

The City of Chicago just published five datasets including street locations, building footprints, bike routes, pedway routes and bike rack locations on Github--released under the MIT license, giving anyone the right to download, modify and reuse, even for commercial purposes.

The move to Github goes beyond just making street locations, building footprints, bike routes, pedway routes and bike rack locations open for download and reuse. It will make the process of maintaining city data a public affair, allowing citizens to get involved, and empowering them to add and fix any incorrect data.

Github will make the process of maintaining valuable city data, something city workers, public partners and citizens do together. I envision a future where citizens can stop complaining about government bureaucracy and actually can roll up their sleeves and do something about it.

The City of Chicago is using GeoJSON and CSV for the five datasets they published to Github. Along with introducing an open source mindset for managing city data, using Github will help city workers embrace lightweight, standards based, open formats which will go a long way to encourage reuse and interoperability.

I’m eager to help other cities, county and state officials understand the different ways they can manage city data using Github and APIs. I will be adding news and analysis for each of these government areas to follow in addition to the work I’ve been doing to encourage the federal government to embrace open data, JSON, APIs and Github.