NEW YORK (February 27, 2023)  – The City Council Committee on Technology convened today for a hearing on Open Data Compliance, chaired by Council Member Jennifer Gutiérrez. In her opening statement,  Council Member Gutiérrez emphasized the importance of open data in effective governance, particularly in light of increasing integration of automated decision-making systems (ADS) into various aspects of service delivery and municipal decision-making.

New York City’s Open Data Law, enacted in 2012, created the NYC Open Data program, which has been a pioneering example of municipal open data operations and set a high standard for public data accessibility. However, despite meaningful strides in open data operations, Council Members noted concerns regarding the availability and quality of certain datasets, as well as the staffing levels and resources allocated to the Office of Data Analytics (ODA), a critical part of the city’s infrastructure. The City’s Chief Analytics Officer, Martha Norrick, emphasized the remarkable efficiency of Open Data’s small and agile team of five and a half staff, which compiles data sets from every city agency, encompassing billions of rows of data. ODA testified that 47% of agency-submitted datasets do not meet on-time standards, but ODA’s enforcement capacity is limited. ODA also noted longstanding, high levels of public engagement with the Open Data program, underscoring its continued relevance and relative value for resource allocation.    

Noel Hildago, the Executive Director of BetaNYC, highlighted the Administration’s directives that agencies do more with less, amidst budget cuts and environmental crises, but that now, more than ever, additional resources are critically needed to ensure the accuracy and quality of publicly available data. Hidalgo emphasized the City’s workforce gap in municipal technologists, the importance of cultivating the pipeline of data skills for employment, and the potential impacts to agency operations from this shortage. 

“In the evolving landscape of AI and the growing reliance on NYC Open Data to train AI models, the Open Data portal is an increasingly invaluable resource,” said Chair Gutiérrez. “Ensuring the availability and high quality of our data is non-negotiable. While our city has been a trailblazer in making data publicly accessible, we must remain vigilant about addressing issues of inequity through advances in technology. It is critical that we invest in programs like Open Data to ensure our data can be leveraged to reap the benefits of emerging technology.”