Open Data

Open Data Opens Doors for App Developers

March 8, 2019

For a small start-up company, such as Neappoli Inc., the success or failure of the business depends on many important factors. One of these factors is the location of the company. Neappoli is fortunate to operate from the city of Ottawa, Ontario. Ottawa does a fantastic job of encouraging growth in the technology sector and supporting local entrepreneurs. This blog post explains how Ottawa helps make life easy for local mobile developers.

The City of Ottawa makes various data publicly available. Ottawa licenses this data under the Canadian Open Government License. This license allows anyone to utilize the data for commercial purposes in perpetuity without having to pay any fees or royalties.'

Thanks to this “open data”, many eager software developers have created apps for Ottawa citizens. This includes Christof Lange’s Bathroom Scout (an app to find bathrooms around the world), the Ottawa Public Library’s BiblioMobile (an app to search for library items at the nearest location), Larry Dunkelman’s Bus Buddy (an app showing the bus routes and stops of Ottawa’s transit service, OC Transpo), and Neappoli, an app allowing citizens to conveniently submit 311 (non-urgent) city issues. Neappoli allows app users to quickly and easily report problems in their neighbourhood with a few taps, which saves time from having to phone the city directly.

The City of Ottawa has launched two Apps4Ottawa contests in 2010 and 2013. The purpose of the Apps4Ottawa contest is to honour developers with “the most useful, creative, and effective web-based applications and tools” (City of Ottawa website) to encourage developers to use the city’s open data.

Ottawa has greatly expanded their open data catalogue over the years. App developers now have access to dozen of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) in the categories of business & economy, City Hall, demographics, environment, geography & maps, health and safety, living, planning & development, and transportation. Neappoli uses the Open311 API to create an app to help citizens and cities. Developers can use the API to build apps that can view and report non-urgent city issues (for example, potholes, dead squirrels, graffiti, etc.).

Technology continues to improve over the years. Cities such as Ottawa, who release open data allow local mobile developers to help advance technology. In today’s technologically-fuelled age, everything’s about speed and maximizing time. Apps like Neappoli can drastically reduce the time required for citizens to perform tasks. Before Neappoli’s inception, citizens would have to wait on the line for several minutes when making a phone call to the city to report a neighbourhood issue. They would then have to make several follow-up phone calls. Now, anyone can make a few quick taps on their mobile device and then track the progress of their issue as it gets automatically sent to the city and resolved.

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