The Next Step For Nashville’s Open Government Data: Make It User-Friendly

A screenshot of Nashville's open data site, showing some of the beer permit locations listed. Credit: data.nashville.gov

A screenshot of Nashville’s open data site. The site launched with 21 sets of data, including beer permit locations. Credit: data.nashville.gov

The Nashville mayor’s office launched an “open data” website this week, compiling 21 sets of data from various government agencies. People can look up on data.nashville.gov which businesses have beer permits, who’s been violating property codes and where to find public parks, among other things.

The data is formatted in spreadsheets and maps, and that probably won’t attract a large number of everyday people. But Jacques Woodcock, who helped review the site, says developers can take that information and make it more accessible.

“When you get that data into hands of a larger group of people, you’re going to start seeing more tools get built around those datasets that are serving the even greater population,” he says. “The developer community is the amplifier.”

Woodcock is the co-organizer of a conference at the end of the month, called Hack For Change Nashville, where developers can build these tools. For instance, at a similar conference in Austin, Texas, someone created an app to search through restaurant inspections.

Nashville is one of several metro areas around the country — including Austin, San Francisco and Philadelphia — to launch open data initiatives, in an effort to increase transparency. Nashville still has far to go before it catches up to these cities, which have hundreds more data sets available online.

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