Baltimore City Partners With University of Baltimore to Expand Open Data Portal


The city of Baltimore is partnering with the University of Baltimore and the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance to enhance information sharing and data accessibility on the city’s open data portal.

At the University of Baltimore, involvement in the open data expansion project will be led by Seema D. Iyer, associate director of the Jacob France Institute and leader of a long-term open data project, the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance. The group, a project within the University’s Jacob France Institute, recently released the 15th annual Vital Signs report, a comprehensive compilation of open and other data about Baltimore’s neighborhoods—real property, green space, crime, etc.—which encourages communities to track key indicators on quality of life.

The Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance (BNIA) is slated to hold a stakeholders meeting with individuals and organizations in Baltimore in order to look at ways of improving community development through open data.

The Mayor’s office has said it will provide resources through its department of information technology in order to improve the city’s open data efforts based on recommendations that come from the BNIA led group.

“With the growing number of public, private and community-based stakeholders relying on the availability of open data in Baltimore, the time is now to build a coalition to advocate for and provide feedback to the development of this information,” said Mayor Pugh. “Our aim is greater transparency in government operations, data-informed public-sector decision-making and private-sector economic innovation.”

Baltimore officially launched its open data portal in 2011, but the city has faced criticism from the Sunlight Foundation and others about its limited updates to the portal. In the wake of the Freddie Gray shooting in 2015, the Sunlight Foundation examined Baltimore’s police data and found that the information available on use of force offered limited valuable detail. Sunlight also found that many datasets had not been updated as frequently as guidance on the portal itself said it would be. Baltimore’s CitiStat – an early open data effort spearheaded by then Mayor Martin O’Malley, also saw staff reductions which led to data on the site becoming stale.

It is unclear what recommendations will come out of the new effort from the University of  Baltimore or if they will actually result in more frequent and more valuable data updates, but the meeting is happening. Watch this space.