BREWER WANTS CITY DATA ONLINE

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Council Member Gale Brewer chaired a hearing on her bill that would give New Yorkers online access to public records and city data.

The Open Data Standards Legislation would create New York’s first data portal with information from all city agencies and raw figures.

“People will be able to access data without needing a license or to FOIL the information,” said Brewer, referring to the Freedom of Information Law.

The user-friendly records will be readable by computers and cell phones.

If approved, the city would have until January 2010 to set the technical standards that would allow city agencies to publish public records online. The proposed legislation would require all data to be available online by 2013.

Brewer, who is chair of the Technology in Government Committee, explained that the proposal is similar to the initiatives taken cities including Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C. However, it would be the first time that such an effort is accomplished through legislative action.

“This initiative will increase government transparency and it mirrors what President Obama is producing,” said Brewer, referring to recently launched federal information databases and stimulus-tracking sites.

Web developers, the State Senate’s chief information officer and officials from cities with similar websites expressed support of Brewer’s bill during the committee meeting.

But officials from the mayor’s office noted that city information is already widely accessible. Plus, they were concerns about the cost of a broad mandate and the usability of a raw data portal.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has already announced a competition to find an application that puts raw data online in a user-friendly manner, which accomplishes the goal of Brewer’s legislation.

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