City of Vancouver set to back open source, open standards, open data

Mayor Gregor Robertson and Coun. Andrea Reimer want the City of Vancouver to support open-source software and open standards.

They also want the city to make as much data as possible freely available to the public.

Reimer will introduce a motion next Tuesday (May 19) that would see the city endorse the principles of open source, open standards, and open data, as well as start work on publishing data on the Web using open standards.

In a press release issued today (May 14), Robertson said that an “open city” philosophy would help create new opportunities in the information-technology sector.

Reimer noted in the same release that open data would allow people to “reuse and repurpose” the city’s information resources.

The motion reads as follows:

WHEREAS the City of Vancouver is committed to bringing the community into City Hall by engaging citizens, and soliciting their ideas, input and creative energy;

WHEREAS municipalities across Canada have an opportunity to dramatically lower their costs by collectively sharing and supporting software they use and create;

WHEREAS the total value of public data is maximized when provided for free or where necessary only a minimal cost of distribution;

WHEREAS when data is shared freely, citizens are enabled to use and re-purpose it to help create a more economically vibrant and environmentally sustainable city;

WHEREAS Vancouver needs to look for opportunities for creating economic activity and partnership with the creative tech sector;

WHEREAS the adoption of open standards improves transparency, access to city information by citizens and businesses and improved coordination and efficiencies across municipal boundaries and with federal and provincial partners;

WHEREAS the Integrated Cadastral Information Society (ICIS) is a not-for-profit society created as a partnership between local government, provincial government and major utility companies in British Columbia to share and integrate spatial data to which 94% of BC local governments are members but Vancouver is not;

WHEREAS digital innovation can enhance citizen communications, support the brand of the city as creative and innovative, improve service delivery, support citizens to self-organize and solve their own problems, and create a stronger sense of civic engagement, community, and pride;

WHEREAS the City of Vancouver has incredible resources of data and information, and has recently been awarded the Best City Archive of the World.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the City of Vancouver endorses the principles of:

Ӣ Open and Accessible Data - the City of Vancouver will freely share with citizens, businesses and other jurisdictions the greatest amount of data possible while respecting privacy and security concerns;

Ӣ Open Standards - the City of Vancouver will move as quickly as possible to adopt prevailing open standards for data, documents, maps, and other formats of media;

Ӣ Open Source Software - the City of Vancouver, when replacing existing software or considering new applications, will place open source software on an equal footing with commercial systems during procurement cycles; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT in pursuit of open data the City of Vancouver will:

Ӣ Identify immediate opportunities to distribute more of its data;

Ӣ Index, publish and syndicate its data to the internet using prevailing open standards, interfaces and formats;

Ӣ Develop appropriate agreements to share its data with the Integrated Cadastral Information Society (ICIS) and encourage the ICIS to in turn share its data with the public at large;

Ӣ Develop a plan to digitize and freely distribute suitable archival data to the public;

Ӣ Ensure that data supplied to the City by third parties (developers, contractors, consultants) are unlicensed, in a prevailing open standard format, and not copyrighted except if otherwise prevented by legal considerations;

Ӣ License any software applications developed by the City of Vancouver such that they may be used by other municipalities, businesses, and the public without restriction.

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED THAT the City Manager be tasked with developing an action plan for implementation of the above.

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May 15, 2009 at 11:31am

"Open and Accessible Data" is yet more vacuous PR from this council. While it's nice to go to open standards, the "promise" of a more so-called accessible government is pure bunk. Information will be edited, manipulated, and held secret just like it always has. The City uses qualifiers in everything it says - such as: "...distribute suitable archival data to the public..." - just who determines what is "suitable"; will the City explain how they determine what is suitable? Stop the bull, and get working on issues that actually matter to people living in this city!


May 15, 2009 at 1:02pm

A California company Meraki has offered to give citizens low cost wireless throughout cities like Vancouver for $10K a sq mile - works out to around $500K or a dollar a household

Google Meraki and San Francisco to see how the city could do it.

Big Telecom campaign donations to city council are the only real roadblock.


May 15, 2009 at 5:45pm

This is the same council that has had more in-camera secret meetings, makes decisions with little public feedback, and refused to take lie detector tests over stolen documents? Yea. Right.


May 15, 2009 at 9:27pm

They need to DEFINE "open" before this makes any difference. Microsoft claims to have "open" standards, but the only thing that's open is the wallets of the people use them. A standard that is riddled with patents is not "open", for instance, it's a menace. Yet it can still be called "open" by companies like Microsoft or Cisco.

So, a good effort, needs work.

Michael O'Hare

Mar 5, 2010 at 7:50am

I've been researching Vancouver for an article on my website ( ), and think it's great news you are going Open Source. I wish my home town, Leamington Spa, would do the same.