Open Data

William Real / Flickr

Pittsburgh’s old property violations system was, in a word, cumbersome.

“A citizen would put a call into 311. We would then print out that call here (and) manually hand it to an inspector. They would then go out, see the property, inspect it, write on the back of the paper if there was a violation and then give it to someone to be typed up, and then we’d actually mail it out,” said Maura Kennedy, director of the Department of Permits, Licenses and Inspections, or PLI. “That took weeks.”

Roger W / Flickr

City and county officials got the green light to assemble a team of data experts to make local government more efficient and customer-friendly for residents, track spending and projects and create a regional data center. 


“Making sure the city and county treat their information as an asset and make that information publicly available," said Bob Gradeck, project manager for the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center.

Screenshot from

Pittsburgh City Council on Tuesday will take a final vote on a bill that would take the city one step closer to the creation of a Regional Data Center.

The legislation authorizes the city to enter into cooperation agreements with Allegheny County and the University of Pittsburgh to create and operate a web-based open data portal.

As Mayor Bill Peduto continues his quest to modernize the way the city gathers, uses and shares data, the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police is becoming the next department to have its practices put under the microscope.

City Council on Monday discussed a bill that would allow the Bureau to spend $32,000 on a consultant to perform an organizational assessment and strategic evaluation of the Bureau’s data usage policies.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto on Tuesday took a tour 200 Ross St., which houses, among other offices, the Bureau of Building Inspection and Department of City Planning.

BBI Chief Maura Kennedy said they were showing off the long-awaited implementation of a decades-old technology: as of this month, every employee in the building finally has Internet access.

“Previously the building was not wired for the Internet, in large part,” Kennedy said. “So now people are actually using the laptops we purchased several years ago to do real-time data entry.”

Less than a week after Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s Open Data initiative officially become law, Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak has introduced legislation to work with a California-based company to put all of the city’s budget data online.

A bill introduced Tuesday in City Council would allow the Director of Finance and the Director of the Department of Innovation and Performance to contract with Silicon Valley software company OpenGov.

Steel City Codefest Shows the Potential for Open Data

Feb 4, 2014

Pittsburgh's second Steel City Codefest is almost here. The second annual 24-hour technology competition aims to create relevant and useful apps for the Pittsburgh area.

One of last year's winning teams created an app called ParkIt, which would allow users to pay for parking meters using their phone. The app would also remind users when their meter is about to expire and allow them to refill it.

Right to Know Law Could Be Less Important with #OpenPgh

Feb 3, 2014
jacob caddy / flickr

Pittsburgh plans to join 19 other American cities and counties in releasing city data for public use online. As the city works out the details of how this initiative will take shape, they’re looking for public input.

Debra Lam, Mayor Peduto's pick for Chief of Innovation & Performance and Laura Meixell, data and analytics manager for the City of Pittsburgh, say the initial ordinance brought to city council last month is meant to change the perceptions of how Pittsburghers think about data and city disclosure of information.

“It sets the default to open.” Laura Meixell explains, “There’s a whole variety of state laws around what information is public and what isn’t, in the PA Right to Know law. And here in the city we’ve been following those rules since that legislation was enacted, but much more on the basis of, if folks asked for information we would provide it. With this [open data] legislation we’re going to  have the chance to go ahead and be proactive, to open things up and to make things more available and useful in the short term.”

City organizations have encouraged the software community to creatively use municipal data, even before the introduction of this legislation, through Steel City Codefest.

Pittsburghers might get the opportunity to know a lot more about city government.

City Council heard testimony Thursday on Natalia Rudiak’s legislation to establish an open data ordinance for the city of Pittsburgh.

The ordinance would make information available online to the public -- ranging from city services to infrastructure.

Matt Barron, Mayor Bill Peduto’s Policy Manager, said staff members in city government don’t currently have access to a lot of data, and it makes their jobs difficult.