April 24, 2010
When our local health unit released its Food Inspection Disclosure Site we thought it was a great resource to find out about our local eating establishments. The interface for the application is very good if you’re looking for information on a specific establishment but we found it difficult to get a sense for what might be going on in your neighbourhood or region.
One of the advantages of working in a digital technology firm is that all someone has to say is something like “Hey, wouldn’t it be great if you can see this on a map?” Because the answer is yes, you can. After a few days of solid effort by our team, we are happy to introduce: EatSure.ca
We uncovered a few surprises ourselves doing this initiative – for example – looking in your area may turn up your grocery store has a critical warning. I didn’t even know that grocery stores were inspected!
We believe that the resource itself will be useful to the people in our community but we also hope to start a community discussion around the importance of open data and how citizens can imagine new and exciting ways of using that data. We were able to create EatSure.ca with only the information that is provided to the public web browser; we could make the application more powerful if we had access to the underlying data that drives the health unit’s web site.
We are aware of only one other initiative in our area – a Blackberry application that was developed by a Fanshawe College student on his own time to display London Transit bus location data (not yet available for public use). If you are aware of any other open data initiatives in our community, please post them in the comments below.
Across our country, cities like Toronto, Edmonton, Ottawa and Vancouver have embraced open data and have initiatives well underway. Edmonton is also launching a contest for open data applications and offering $50,000 in prizes for winning entries. And around the world the US and UK governments have massive programs established.
“Unlike our American and British peers, the Canadian Federal (and provincial…) government(s) currently have no official, coordinated effort to release government data. We think that should change. But rather than complain, we thought we’d do something. This is our effort. A stab at showing our government, and Canada, what a federal open data portal could and should look like.”
Our political leaders are excited by the ways in which open data can be used to enhance the lives of our citizens and it is up to us who are interested in technology to continually better the services that are available. Technology geeks like to do these types of things for fun, to see if they can, and for the general service of our neighbours, friends and peers.
All we need, our government friends, is the data. Please?