by Peter Galli on January 14, 2010 01:16pm

The Canadian City of Edmonton has become the first North American city to use Microsoft's Open Government Data Initiative (OGDI) solution, and is working with the company to develop the region's first public open data catalogue, an online site that will give citizens and developers easier and more transparent access to information and allow them to develop new solutions and suggest ideas that enhance public infrastructure and services. 

The solution for the City of Edmonton uses open source components along with Windows Azure, Microsoft's cloud operating system, and was quickly implemented at a low cost. The use of open standards and application programming interfaces lets local developers and City IT staff easily retrieve data for use in new and innovative online applications or mashups that can help improve citizen services, enhance collaboration between the City and private organizations, and increase City transparency.

According to Chris Moore, the CIO of the City of Edmonton, the open data catalogue underscores its commitment to enhancing engagement and collaboration with the citizens and community developers of Edmonton. "By moving to a more open model and working with Microsoft, we hope to harness the talent and innovation that resides locally to drive Edmonton forward," he said in a press statement.

John Weigelt, the National Technology Officer for Microsoft Canada, is also upbeat about the positive effects of cloud computing on cost and complexity. "OGDI-based solutions not only provide easy access to government data, but also demonstrate how cloud computing can help significantly reduce the cost, complexity and time to market for solutions that consume the data. Citizens and community developers will now be able to help solve the business needs of the City of Edmonton, resulting in new solutions in a very short amount of time," he said in the press statement.

Microsoft announced the OGDI initiative in May 2009, with the goal of reducing the cost of publishing government data while simplifying data access by leveraging cloud computing and open standards, which is exactly what has been achieved with Edmonton. More information on OGDI can be found here.