The City Council of Portland, Oregon unanimously approved a resolution today that directs the city government to open data to outside developers and encourages adoption of open source solutions in technology procurement.
Like the creation of railroads and highways fostered economic development in the past, giving software developers access to a landscape of municipal data could be the beginning of a foundation for a new era of innovation.
"This [resolution] will increase efficiency in local government... democratize public data itself... and it will foster innovation among Portland's world class software community," said Skip Newberry with the Mayor's Office in his testimony according to a report on the local tech blog Silicon Florist.
The full text of the resolution has been posted as text (from a PDF) on the same blog.
Portland joins San Francisco, Chicago and Vancouver, British Columbia as cities with major initiatives to offer municipal data in formats that will enable independent developers to build new applications leveraging that data. Making municipal data openly available for developers could be the contemporary economic equivalent of paving roads and installing electricity that can be used to open new businesses and better serve the people living in that city.
Portland, Oregon isn't new to tech innovation, of course. It's a place where the city bus system has its own app store, it's home to red-hot mobile development shops like Small Society (built iPhone apps for Starbucks, WholeFoods etc.) and Urban Airship (iPhone push infrastructure) and it's the home of Linux creator Linus Torvalds, wiki inventor Ward Cunningham and one third of the staff of ReadWriteWeb - amongst other geekery.
What could come next? How about more cities getting on board, a national or international standard for municipal data and delivery of that data in real time? One Prefecture in Japan has announced that it will promote the mobile Augmented Reality app Sekai Camera to display historical data about locations in the area. Seeing individual cities move in this direction is a great start.
What US city will move in favor of open source and open, structured data next? Seattle? New York? Someplace in the Mid West? Place your bets now as these are unlikely to be isolated developments.
Photo: "Max" Creative Commons by Stu Seeger.