Open Data Policy Collection

Fargo, ND

Administrative Policy (Jun 26, 2017)

View original policy

Sunlight provided assistance with the development of this policy.

Note: Policy was originally going to be presented to the City Commission, but that never happened and instead it was switched to be an administrative policy. The date here (June 26, 2017) is the date of the draft text, which is what became the administrative policy.





WHEREAS, much of the data collected by the City is stored in ways which impede the ability to aggregate, analyze and synthesize it to better allocate public resources; and

WHEREAS, proactive release of information currently sought through public records requests could reduce staff time spent responding to such requests; and

WHEREAS, access to public information promotes a higher level of civic engagement and allows citizens to provide valuable feedback to government officials regarding local issues; and

WHEREAS, every citizen has the right to prompt, efficient service from the government; and

WHEREAS, the thoughtful implementation of an open data program improves provision of services, increases transparency and access to public information, and enhances coordination and efficiencies among departments, partner organizations and citizens; and

WHEREAS, much of the data collected by the City is stored within each Department, impacting the ability to aggregate, analyze and synthesize it to better allocate public resources; and

WHEREAS, one goal of an Open Data policy is to proactively provide information currently sought through public records requests, thereby saving the City time and money; and

WHEREAS, in commitment to the spirit of Open Government, the City will consider public information to be open by default and will proactively publish data and data containing information, consistent with relevant public records law; and

WHEREAS, information technologies, including web-based and other Internet applications and services, are an essential means for Open Government, and good government generally; and

WHEREAS, by publishing structured standardized data in machine readable formats the City seeks to encourage the local software community to develop software applications and tools to collect, organize, and share public record data in new and innovative ways; and

WHEREAS, the protection of privacy, confidentiality and security will be maintained as a paramount priority while also advancing the government’s transparency and accountability through open data; and

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the City of Fargo City Commission does hereby adopt the City of Fargo Open Data Policy, and will carry out this Policy to the extent practical and financially feasible;

Section 1: Definitions

a. “Data” means statistical, factual, quantitative, or qualitative information that is maintained or created by or on behalf of a city agency.

b. “Open data” means data that is available online, in an open format, with no legal encumbrances on use or reuse, and is available for all to access and download in full without fees or a requirement of registration. “Legal encumbrance” includes federal copyright protections and other, non-statutory legal limitations on how or under what conditions a dataset may be used.

c. “Open format” means any widely accepted, nonproprietary, platform-independent, machine-readable data format, which permits automated processing of such data and facilitates analysis and search capabilities.

d. “Dataset” means a named collection of related records, with the collection containing data organized or formatted in a specific or prescribed way, often in tabular form.

e. “Protected information” means any dataset or portion thereof to which an agency may deny access pursuant to Chapter 44-04 of the North Dakota Century Code or any other law, rule or regulation.

f. “Sensitive information” means any data which, if published by the City online, could raise privacy, confidentiality or security concerns or have the potential to jeopardize public health, safety or welfare to an extent that is greater than the potential public benefit of publishing that data. “Sensitive information” also includes data or information determined to be sensitive by department or city policy, such as the City’s Security Classification for Data system, which is on file with the Information Services Department.

G. “Publishable data” means data which is not protected or sensitive and which has been prepared for release to the public.

Section 2: Open Data Program

a. In the spirit of open government, the City of Fargo will proactively issue publishable data, subject to the requirements and non-discretionary limitations upon the disclosure of data as may be set forth in state or federal law, including applicable industry standards and regulations. To achieve this, the City commits to develop and implement practices that will allow it to:

  1. Proactively release publishable city data, making it freely available in appropriately varied and useful open formats, using an open license with no restrictions on use or reuse, and fully accessible to the broadest range of users to use for varying purposes;

  2. Publish high quality, updated data with documentation (metadata) and permanence to encourage maximum use;

  3. Provide or support access to free, historical archives of released city data;

  4. Measure the effectiveness of datasets made available through the Open Data Program by connecting open data efforts to the City’s programmatic priorities;

  5. Minimize limitations on the disclosure of public information while appropriately safeguarding protected and sensitive information; and

  6. Provide opportunity for innovative uses of the City’s publishable data by agencies, the public, and other partners.

b. The development and implementation of these practices shall be overseen by the Fargo Data Governance Committee, reporting to the City Administrator.

c. The requirements of this Policy shall apply to any city department, office, administrative unit, commission, board, advisory committee or other division of city government (“agency”), including the records of third party agency contractors that create or acquire information, records, or data on behalf of a city agency.

d. Data development and investment efforts should be prioritized and coordinated across the City to maximize efficiency and cost effectiveness, enhance information sharing and technology compatibility through standardization, and reduce expenditures. For purposes of prioritizing data sets for inclusion on the Open Data Portal, Departments should consider the following:

  1. whether the data is frequently requested;

  2. helps increase the City’s accountability, efficiency, responsiveness or delivery of services;

  3. the data set improves public knowledge of the City and its operations, or furthers the goals of the City.

e. Appropriate funding should be made available to achieve the goals of this program.

Section 3: Governance

a. Implementation of the Open Data Program will be overseen by the Fargo Data Governance Committee, which will work with the City’s departments and agencies to:

  1. For each city agency or department, identify and publish appropriate contact information for a lead open data coordinator who will be responsible for managing that agency’s participation in the Open Data Program;

  2. Oversee the creation of a comprehensive inventory of datasets held by each city agency which is published to the central open data location and is regularly updated;

  3. Develop a shared understanding of, and means to identify, sensitive information and protected information;

  4. Develop and implement a process for determining the relative level of risk and public benefit associated with potentially sensitive, non-protected information so as to make a determination about whether and how to publish it;

  5. Develop and implement a process for prioritizing the release of datasets which takes into account new and existing signals of interest from the public (such as the frequency of public records requests), the City’s programmatic priorities, existing opportunities for data use in the public interest, and cost;

  6. Proactively consult with members of the public, agency staff, journalists, researchers, and other stakeholders to identify the datasets which will have the greatest benefit to city residents if published in a high quality manner;

  7. Establish processes for publishing datasets to the central open data location, including processes for ensuring that datasets are high quality, up-to-date, are in use-appropriate formats, and exclude protected and sensitive information;

  8. Ensure that appropriate metadata is provided for each dataset in order to facilitate its use;

  9. Develop and oversee a routinely updated, public timeline for new dataset publication;

  10. Make recommendations for historical document inclusion, define a schedule for approved historical document publication; and

  11. Ensure that published datasets are available for bulk download and/or available via public application programming interfaces (APIs) without legal encumbrance.

b. In order to increase and improve use of the City’s open data, the Fargo Data Governance Committee will actively encourage agency and public participation through providing regular opportunities for feedback and collaboration.

Section 4: Central Online Location for Published Data

a. The City will create and maintain a publicly available location on the City’s website or in another suitable online location where the City’s published data will be available for download.

b. Published datasets shall be placed into the public domain. Dedicating datasets to the public domain means that there are no restrictions or requirements placed on use of these datasets.

c. Each published dataset should be associated with contact information for the appropriate manager of that dataset as well as with a file layout or data dictionary that provides information about field labels and values.

d. City departments will specify a recommended data citation form available for viewing on the central online location for published city data to encourage responsible reuse of city data.

Section 5: Open Data Report and Review

a) Within one year of the effective date of this Resolution, and thereafter no later than June 1st of each year, the City shall publish an annual Open Data Report. The report shall include an assessment of progress towards achievement of the goals of the City’s Open Data Program, an assessment of how the City’s open data work has furthered or will further the City’s programmatic priorities, and a description of datasets envisioned to be published by the City in the following year.

b) The report should also include suggestions for improving the City’s open data management processes in order to ensure that the City continues to move towards the achievement of the policy’s goals.

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