FORT WORTH — Five years ago, satellite navigation came to cell phones for the first time, Twitter went mainstream and Apple opened the App Store, sending the world into an app frenzy.Google has launched Google Glass, a Star Trek-style computer built into eyeglasses; everything from TVs to watches got “smart,” and 3D printing is actually usable. Despite all the recent technology advances, the city of Fort Worth’s website has been stuck in the past. The last time the city updated its website technology was five years ago, said Michelle Gutt, communications and public engagement director for the city. Now the city is adding new technology, a new look and open data policies to make public records easier to access for residents and between departments. Open data makes public information freely available for everyone to use and republish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other control. “If you look at your phones, laptops, tablets and what you were using five years ago compared to what you are using today, you can see just how far technology has come,” Gutt told council members April 29 in a presentation about the city’s up-and-coming website improvements. The city is launching the enhancements over the summer and early fall.“The more transparent we are, the more trust we build with our citizens,” Councilman Jungus Jordan said.“An important part of continuing to reach out and be more transparent is giving the items requested. This shows we have nothing to hide. We are the citizens’ government,” he added. For open data, Gutt said the city will start by posting the most request information, such as restaurant health scores, building permits and certificates of occupancy, financial data, code violations, crime mapping and a comprehensive community calendar. The open data program costs $45,373 for the initial setup and a partial year of service, and will cost $85,000 annually, said Brian Chatman, content strategy coordinator for the city’s website. The other improvement costs are still up in the air, Chatman said, as the city chooses the what type of software and content management.“It really is geared at making a more competitive marketplace and reducing costs in the long term,” he said.Gutt said the city will also use OpenGov, a program that will make financial data instantly accessible to residents and staff. It will allow residents to navigate detailed multi-year revenues and expenditures with visualizations and detailed reports. The first data sets should be up by June 1. An audit of the city’s website should be completed by June 30, an online documents management system should launch Aug. 1 and new website branding, templates and OpenGov should be ready by Oct. 1, Gutt said. The open data policies will not only promote transparency and accountability, Gutt said, but can also encourage economic development by allowing third parties to use the data and information for business ideas. For example, since a permit is required in New York to film on the street, a tour company is using the open data policies to track where the filming will take place and is selling tours. Other open data cities include Austin, San Francisco and Chicago, and Texas is an open data state, according to data.gov.
Caty Hirst, 817-390-7984 Twitter: @catyhirst