Open data ordinance means information awareness

Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak and Mayor Bill Peduto proposed the Open Data Ordinance last Tuesday, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. This legislation will publish municipal data to the public, most of which was available under Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law, but was extremely difficult to access.

The Right to Know Law essentially declares all municipal data public record, unless disclosure is prohibited by state or federal law, but does nothing to expedite the publication of that information. This new legislation ensures that the city government continually updates and publishes information about the city.

The Open Data Ordinance will cover a wide range of topics, such as paving schedules, building permits, and city budgets, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

If the law passes, Pittsburgh will join 19 other cities that have already passed open data legislation in recent years. The project will be headed by Laura Meixell, who was hired specifically for this initiative, and will cost around $100,000 in staff time, according to

Mayor Peduto has expressed his hope that Pittsburgh residents will use this information to develop web applications to improve life in the city and that city employees will use this data to do their jobs more efficiently.

Easily accessible data provides transparency for the residents of Pittsburgh, and allows data miners and social scientists to use the information for research projects. These projects can be beneficial to the city, as they locate and explore trends that may not be readily apparent.

Councilwoman Rudiak and Mayor Peduto’s joint initiative follows Peduto’s first executive order, which banned politicians from putting their names on any public property for political purposes, according to the Tribune-Review.

However, while Mayor Peduto’s executive order could be read as an insubstantial gesture, the Open Data Ordinance has the potential to positively affect the lives of Pittsburgh citizens.

The Open Data Ordinance speaks to a desire on the part of local government for Pittsburgh residents to be informed about and involved in the process of government.

Both Councilwoman Rudiak and Mayor Peduto should be congratulated on their commitment to the increased well-being and awareness of Pittsburgh residents.