Tulsa’s Open Data Policy: What We Learned

The conversation around Open Data began in late 2012 / early 2013. After having worked on a couple different gov tech projects (creating a boundary service, working with TulsaTransit to get their data on to googlemaps, and working with the fire department on a proof-of-concept to improve their dispatch proceedure), we had already built up a relationship with a couple of the organizations that work with the city — namely the Transit Authority, and the Tulsa Fire Department. We knew, through having run in to political, and proceedural roadblocks, that in order to work on more projects, and have our organization more visible to City Hall, that we needed to standardize the way we asked for data.

The process for us building an app until then, was: build the app to the point that we needed data. Ask City Hall for data and have them get confused about who we were, paranoid about what we were going to do with their information, and defensive about opening government information to the public.

So we knew we needed to change that process. We leveraged personal connections to two members of City Council, as well as the CIO for the city, TL Cox, who had a bit of a hobby interest in open data standards. By working with the CIO’s office, and City Council, we were able to draft a resolution, run it through the legal department, and have the council and the mayor approve the resolution. To be perfectly honest, the Mayor’s office had a bit of political pressure to get this done, as he was being pressured by an opponent during election season.

Getting the open data resolution passed was a collaborative effort between our brigade’s leadership, as well as champions inside of City Hall, and a little sprinkle of politics didn’t hurt us. We definitely learned a lot through the process about what it takes to get things done in local government. Overall it was a positive experience, and we were able to build trust with the projects we already had under our belt.

Open Data page on the City of Tulsa website:
https://www.cityoftulsa.org/our-city/open-tulsa/about-open-tulsa.aspx

Open Data Resolution:
https://www.cityoftulsa.org/media/353986/resolution.pdf

Data Set List:
https://www.cityoftulsa.org/our-city/open-tulsa/open-tulsa-dataset-list.aspx

Going forward, we now know that in order to build successful gov tech projects / apps, it helps to extend a hand to the gov agency who owns the data first. This is the approach we’ve taken with BPZAround.me; before building the project, we took our ideas and sketches to INCOG, and asked if they would be interested in collaborating. Not only did they agree, but they assigned two staffmembers to work with us, and have been incredibly helpful throughout the building process.

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