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BLOG: Big cities deserve big databases -- and these places have 'em

Christopher Nerney | April 2, 2013
Philadelphia and other major cities make searchable data available to public


Look at that skyline of Philadelphia in the photo above. In those buildings and parks, and on those streets, are stories: stories about people, stories about history, stories about excessive and sometimes irrational loyalty to local sports teams.

But there are Philadelphia stories to be found elsewhere. In the data. Specifically, in the more than 175 data sets, applications and APIs that comprise OpenDataPhilly, a portal run by the non-profit Philadelphia Public Interest Information Network, which says the project is "based on the idea that providing free and easy access to data information encourages better and more transparent government and a more engaged and knowledgeable citizenry."

OpenDataPhilly includes both municipal and non-municipal data broken into numerous categories such as Arts/Culture/History, Education, Elections/Politics, Food, Public Safety, Transportation and Real Estate. Click on category and you're presented with various data files to explore.

For example, under Environment you can get data from the Philadelphia Water Department on sewer flows or information from the U.S. Geological Survey on fault lines and topographical changes in the City of Brotherly Love.

And under Parks/Recreation, users can view a database of bicycle commuter routes from the Greater Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition, or a searchable listing of the city's happy hour and restaurant specials provided by Drink Philly.

Users also can search with keywords. The data, apps and APIs includes information about the original source, update frequency and other relevant details.

While Philadelphia makes a lot of data available to citizens, it's not alone. Many other cities also have made searchable data available to people. They include:

New York City
San Francisco
Washington DC


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