Posted by Kerry Godes
Senior Manager, Worldwide Marketing and Operations

More and more governments around the world are making their data open and publicly available. Citizens benefit from a new level of transparency and real time information. Governments can tout increased engagement with their constituents and efficiencies in administration. Businesses and developers win with new opportunities to innovate and create value-added applications.

This Open Data trend is increasingly relevant to governments because of the substantial value in judiciously sharing data with constituents as a means to transform government services delivery. By enabling access to the data, individuals are empowered to draw their own conclusions and use the data to improve their communities. Sharing data across government departments also supports more insightful analytics and when data is open, departments update on the fly without initiating time consuming requests for current data.

Microsoft has worked with many government entities worldwide to “open up” their data repositories and implement Open Data solutions, providing innovative ways to drive transparency and engage with citizens, as well as realize the full benefits of mobile access, social media, and crowdsourcing.

Recently, the City of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada announced the launch of their Open Government Data Initiative (OGDI) DataLab project. Open Data Waterloo is a new cloud-based portal that provides people and organizations with direct access to data for developing applications, doing research, or learning about local trends and topics of community interest.

“Waterloo is using Microsoft’s Windows Azure cloud to power its open data catalogue, which provides scale, flexibility and cost-effective compute and storage environments for the city,” said Garry Bezruki, Chief Information Officer for the City of Waterloo. “Working with the Microsoft Openness Initiative team, the city joins governments across the globe in realizing the benefits of open standards and open source on the Windows Azure platform offered by the Open Government Data Initiative (OGDI) DataLab project."

At almost the same latitude, but an ocean away, City of Bremen in Germany took their Open Data project mobile. Created by a local student, the Open Bremen smartphone application provides citizens with quick access to local data and information, such as addresses and directions to city attractions. It also facilitates community feedback, with the ability to report, for example, damage to roads or litter with photos sent directly from a phone to the responsible authority. 

 "For us, it was a very positive experience to see that we could create value for both citizens and the city by providing access to municipal data,” said Dr. Martin Hagen, Chief Information Officer for the City of Bremen. “The Open Bremen application offers a noticeable gain in service and transparency, creating new forms of municipal engagement between citizens and government.”

City of Waterloo and City of Bremen are in good company with many other governments implementing Open Data projects around the globe. Check out the Microsoft in Government site for more customer examples and stayed tuned as we highlight new customer stories on the blog in the coming months. Let us know in the comments how your local government could benefit from an Open Data initiative.