Since the Open Data initiative started, tons of information has been offered to the general public in forms of spreadsheets, maps, calendars and others, giving people access to information that was buried before in Government institutions files and data servers.
The Open Data initiative is a valuable effort to give the power of information to citizens, allowing them to make more informed decisions and creating a transparency sensation among them.
However there’s still a link that needs to be stronger in the chain, how to put that information in the hands of the people who has no time or expertise to dig into the lots of databases available. This is a place where developers are called to act as translators that transform raw data into meaningful visualizations for the general public and to offer simple solutions to improve people’s lives.
The most common apps you can find are related with the main concerns of citizens: neighborhood safety and transportation; but now that Open Data is better known it is expanding to tourism, food, politics, education, environment and so on. The more apps fetch Open Data information, the more public use them, and they will demand more updated and Open information, motivating cities and government institutions to Open their public Data.
Hacemos Contactos developed a simple mobile app to show how you can take this Open Data information and transform it into a useful tool for the common person walking on the street. In this case we are using the data that comes from the approved permits for food carts/trucks, and showing them in list and map views. The update frequency information is very important to make an app valuable for the public, in this case San Francisco Open Data site declares the information is updated daily, what is enough for the purpose of the app. We looked for other cities with similar information to include them in the app, but the data wasn’t available or the last update happened two years ago, making it not enough accurate for the intended use.
See SF Mobile Food App showcased in San Francisco Open Data site http://apps.sfgov.org/showcase/apps/sf-mobile-food/
We encourage other developers to create more apps that use Open Data and contribute in that way with information transparency.