A few weeks ago I was at an event in Victoria, British Columbia at event where people were discussing the possibilities, challenges and risk of open data. During the conversation, one of the participants talked about how they wanted an API for business license applications from the city.
This is a pretty unusual request – people have told me about their desire for business licenses data especially at the provincial/state and national level, but also at the local level. However, they are usually happy with a data dump once a year or quarter since they generally want to analyze the data for urban planning or business planning reasons. But an API – which would mean essentially constant access to the data and the opportunity to see changes to the database in real time (e.g. if a business registered or moved) – was different.
The reason? The individual – who was an entrepreneur and part of the local Business Improvement Area – wanted to be able to offer a “welcome wagon” to other new businesses in his community. If he knew when a business opened up he could reach out and help make them welcome them to the neighborhood. He thought it was always nice when shopkeepers knew one another but didn’t always know what was going on even a few blocks away because, well, he was often manning his own shop. I thought it was a deeply fascinating example of how open data could help foster community and is something I would have never imagined.
Food for thought and wanted to share.