Announcing the Georgia Open Data Project

Posted by Matt Farmer on September 09, 2013 · 3 mins read

It is my pleasure to formally announce the Georgia Open Data Project

The GAODP is intended to be a banner under which some like minded Software Engineers and otherwise technically minded individuals can work to help improve the ease and quality of access to data about the activities of the State of Georgia and its localities. I, personally, see this as being a twofold mission:

  1. Improvement of pragmatic access: Specifically, this means improvement of the interfaces that allow other software to access data about the State of Georgia and localities. Doing this will open the floodgates and make the further development of applications based on legislative and other governmental data much less expensive than it is today. Our first project under this category, gga-api, is already in a live alpha.
  2. Improvement of human access: Currently the interfaces intended for human consumption are cumbersome and dated. I believe progress on goal one, mentioned above, will make improvement to human interfaces around this data much less time intensive.

In summary, pulling in information about the activities of the State of Georgia should be as easy as it is currently to pull in data from forward-thinking organizations like GitHub. By using the best technologies, disciplines, and paradigms that the technology sector has to offer, we can, and should, make this data a joy to work with.

For this vision to be accomplished, I think that it is important to adopt a driving principle for this entire project: Access to information can’t be proprietary, intelligence based on that information can.  On a practical level this means that any improvements an engineer makes to the tools we develop to access data, such as gga-api, should be legally guaranteed to be released back to the community. However, improvements to other products we develop, such as example applications that do basic analysis, could be improved upon and those improvement could be made proprietary, if the engineer so desires. To put it another way, if you improve the water pump to make it faster, you would be required to let everyone else benefit. If you add some custom flavoring to the water, you can choose to keep that proprietary if you wish and (maybe) build a business from it.

For that reason, I’ve decided to license the gga-api project under the GNU AGPL 3.0, which is a copyleft license. Changes and improvements you make are legally required to be disclosed to anyone using the software under the terms of the license. Anything that feels like a water pump to the GAODP maintainers will use this license, while anything that is tangental to our core goal of making the information accessible will likely be licensed under the Apache License 2.0, which is less restrictive about how the software can be used.

Over the next couple of months, the Georgia Open Data Project homepage and GitHub organization pages are going to get interesting while those of us who are working on these projects have time, and we’re looking for other Software Engineers, UX Designers, App Developers, and Unicycle Mechanics who are interested in leading the charge with us for a more open, more accessible Georgia.

Will you join us?