Tempe launches online data base for info seekers

Public-records requests may have become a thing of the past in Tempe, thanks to the city’s launch of a new open portal that links residents to a vast database of municipal government information.

A new way for residents to access information debuts in Tempe.

Public-records requests may have become a thing of the past in Tempe, thanks to the city’s launch of a new open portal that links residents to a vast database of municipal government information.

The site, at tempe.gov/open-tempe, provides access to downloadable datasets that officials say can be the springboard for new businesses, new apps and scientific and academic research.

The information may be easily shared with other cities, helping to provide data on ways to solve regional and national issues. The system also allows people to access the available data whenever they want without the need for a public records request.

“The new open-data portal shows Tempe’s commitment to transparency and customer service,” Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell said. The portal offers about 40 data sets at this time, with more to come, officials said.

No private information is used in these datasets. Tempe will continue to protect resident privacy, confidentiality and security.

Some of the datasets include: Medical emergency response times, Crime data, Approved commercial sign packages, Graffiti locations, Zoning information. Tempe’s partners for the open-data project include the Center for Government Excellence (GovEx) at Johns Hopkins University, the Government Performance Lab at the Harvard Kennedy School, and the Sunlight Foundation.  Tempe’s draft policy stresses that information is open by default, meaning the city strives to provide free, accessible data that is available anytime.

The goal, say officials, is to provide people access to as much data as is safely possible without the need for a public-records request.