Chicago launches 'Data Dictionary'


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Chicago launched a comprehensive data directory, known as the Data Dictionary, that will put data from the city’s departments and agencies into a user-friendly platform.

The dictionary will include data from education, health and human services, infrastructure and public workers, public safety and housing and property.

“An open and transparent administration makes it easier for residents to hold their government accountable, but it also serves as a platform for innovative tools that improve the lives of all residents,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “Chicago’s vibrant technology and startup community will leverage this wealth of open, easy to navigate public data to create tools that will improve the quality of service for residents and greater public engagement in city government.”

The dictionary will house 177 databases at its launch and include more as time goes on.

The Data Dictionary builds on Emanuel’s vision for open government.

In 2012, the mayor and City Council passed an ordinance to further the creation of Data Dictionary and with the aid of $300,000 from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and work by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago research center for the Department of Innovations and Technology, the Data Dictionary project was underway.

Nine months later, the mayor issued an executive order mandating agencies regularly publish public data on the city’s data portal. Now, together with the city’s open data portal, the Data Dictionary represents progress made by the city toward one of the key goals outlined in the administration’s Chicago 2011 Transition Plan — to publicize and centralize city records and internal service operations.

“We are able to provide another level of transparency to the data the city collects and provide greater context on the data we do release on the data portal,” said Brenna Berman, commissioner of the Department of Innovation and Technology.

The City of Chicago and DOIT have open source released this project and encourages any and all cities, states and public or private institutions to take advantage of this platform and to build from. Berman and DOIT are also strongly committed to working with civic technologists to improve the platform as innovation dictates.

This has been released on the city’s GitHub, which can be found here.

Since Emanuel took office, the city’s data portal,, has been overhauled. It now hosts more than 400 data sets and has been viewed 2.5 million times.

Notable data sets include “Current Employee Names, Salaries and Position Titles,” which publicly displays the salary for every employee of the City of Chicago, a searchable version of the city’s budget, and more than 5 million crime incident reports spanning 10 years.

As a result of these and other efforts to improve transparency and accessibility of city data, Chicago received a national transparency award from the Sunshine Review, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to government transparency, and the City of Chicago website received an A+ grade.

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Chicago, Illinois, Open Data, Open Government, Open Source, Rahm Emmanuel, Software, State & Local News, States, Tech News