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Esri Canada: Open Data & Digital Transformation

20 Aug 2019 10:14 PM | Harrison Ellis

By Matt Pietryszyn, Esri Canada

Open Data initiatives are becoming a strategic priority for many municipalities as city leaders look for new and innovative ways to enhance digital service delivery across their organization. In small to medium, and even larger municipalities, staff can find it difficult to balance the tasks of operating their existing business function and taking on the administration and operation of an Open Data program. A common phrase for Open Data initiatives is “running Open Data off of the corner of my desk”. While this isn’t an ideal situation, ArcGIS Open Data is an easy-to-deploy and maintain platform for opening your authoritative data.

Influencing data owners to share their data with you is not an easy task. Whether it’s due to quality or completion issues, interpretation concerns, sustainable integrations or just plain old risk aversion, there is a challenge to convince a division to share their data across the silos that exist in most municipalities.

I’ve also noticed that it’s increasingly becoming a part of the GIS team’s role to support data owners across the organization –showing them the value of moving their operational business data into a central, enterprise database. As senior leadership and CIOs recognize the importance of centralizing data and connecting people with it across the organization, requiring authoritative data to be made available for analytical purposes and better decision-making, open data initiatives are becoming a strategic priority for many municipalities who are looking for new and innovative ways to enhance digital service delivery across their organization.

Opening data helps

Having an Open Data policy and sharing authoritative municipal data helps to:

  • Build trust and increase transparency.

  • Provide better communication and engagement opportunities with active members of the community.

  • Attract new business through accessible and available city-specific key performance indicators and demographic data.

  • Save time and gain efficiencies in decision-making processes and in delivering public services.

  • Drive innovation by connecting people with data through anytime access and self-service capabilities.

  • Increase “geo-literacy” and “data literacy” across the entire organization and community, when coupled with awareness campaigns and training.

When you release new datasets that can be freely used, reused and redistributed by anyone, and you build awareness around your Open Data portal, you start expanding the reach of your data through data-driven stories and inviting your residents to participate in community engagement activities—thus promoting collaboration, participation and social innovation.

Benefits of ArcGIS Open Data

Esri Canada can help you achieve your goals of becoming an open, data-literate and efficient city. I first heard about ArcGIS Open Data when I was researching an alternate solution, which was made up of multiple, costly components requiring a lengthy project to build the platform. The solution required my team to be regularly moving data around and ensuring that it was always current.

When I discovered that Esri’s Open Data platform was built on ArcGIS Online and that organizations have access to enable it at no additional cost, I knew this was an option that I couldn’t pass up.

By enabling ArcGIS Open Data, you’ll quickly realize the benefits of leveraging your existing GIS platform to share your city’s spatial and non-spatial data. Here are some of them:

Share your open data in minutes

As GIS professionals, you’re already familiar with publishing your data as map services for use in web maps and integrated systems. Using the same processes and patterns of publishing map services or collaborating your data from ArcGIS Enterprise to ArcGIS Online, you can include your existing data within your Open Data site. This means that your open data is connected to the source data! Using hosted layer views, you can filter which attributes are made publicly available.

Organize your data and streamline publishing workflows

Quickly set up your Open Data portal and use Groups to organize the data to share. It’s easy to distribute the administration of your open data. Support for multi-user workflows and approvals exists in the same way you set up groups within ArcGIS Online for sharing secured data.

Organizing your open data is easy and follows familiar, streamlined publishing workflows.

Organizing your open data is easy and follows familiar, streamlined publishing workflows

Part of your existing Location Platform

Your Location Platform is a system of systems. The data that you share is readily available for use in your organization’s web apps, maps, data-driven stories and analyses. It’s also ready to be integrated back into your other enterprise systems. Because you can provide data in many formats, users are able to use it directly in their applications and systems, for instance–business directories, CRM, asset management system, planning and permitting, and community engagement platforms.

Easily share open data in a variety of open formats

An Open Data website makes it easy for users to find and download your authoritative data in a variety of open formats: OGC, WMS, WFS, WCF as well as CSV, KML, Shapefile, File Geodatabase, GeoJSON, GeoServices and so on. To ensure maximum accessibility of your data, make sure you enable the option, “Allow others to export to different formats”.

Easily share your data in multiple open formats

Easily share your data in multiple open formats.

Many Canadian cities are already sharing their open data. For inspiration, visit Esri Canada’s Open Data Hub, where you can explore various data portals and join the growing list of Smart Communities.

Esri Canada's Open Data Hub for exploring Canadian open data portals

Esri Canada's Open Data Hub for exploring Canadian open data portals.

When planning to build your own Open Data portal, it’s important to know who your stakeholders are and what their requirements are. Keeping those in mind, you can work towards creating a useful, engaging and cost-effective portal that goes much further than making data available for download.

If you would like more information on how to get started with ArcGIS Open Data, don’t hesitate to contact me at [email protected].

About the Author

Matt Pietryszyn is the Municipal Industry Manager for Esri Canada. He has over 15 years’ experience working in the public sector, helping municipalities unlock the potential in their location platforms. While advising municipalities on modernizing their business processes and building innovative GIS solutions is a passion of Matt's, he is also an advocate for sharing Open Data and promoting active community engagement. 



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