This is an excerpt from the special issue on urban informatics, published in the December 2014 issue of the Data Engineering bulletin produced by IEEE Computer Society. You can find the article in its entirety at the following link: http://sites.computer.org/debull/A14dec/issue1.htm.
Sixty percent of the world population will live in cities by 2050. Better decision-making at the city level is critical to have a positive impact. And Open Civic Data is key. Civic data is not just data: it is data about us and how we operate, among ourselves and within our environment. Opening the data is not just publishing the data: it means making the public part of the system and tapping into its wisdom to drive actionable decision and impactful outcomes.
There are lots of barriers, some of them technical; and database research can help. There are also some upcoming challenges. These are opportunities for great research. But whatever good research produces, we have to make sure it is properly packaged and can be consumed and incorporated into the the current work streams and work flows used by people running cities and governments. We also have to make sure we do not create an even bigger digital divide for people and cities.
In the not so distant past, database researchers were forced to pick their paper’s “motivating example” based on availability of the data – rather than an application domain they care about or makes sense for their research – or to rely on made-up data. With Open Civic Data, this time is over. Open Civic Data gives our field a chance to apply years of database research – past, present and future – to solve new challenging problems and to have a concrete impact on society and our environment