Baton Rouge Open Data Policy

Shared for feedback by City of Baton Rouge

Through its engagement with What Works Cities, the City of Baton Rouge and Parish of East Baton Rouge has created Baton Rouge's first Open Data Policy.

This policy review is one of a number of efforts designed to catalyze Baton Rouge's digital evolution, to reinvigorate the City-Parish’s open data program and Open Data BR portal, and align City-Parish data-related policies, practices and activities with national best practices.

The review of this open data policy will allow a variety of constituents and community stakeholders to provide input and share their insights into how and how well the City-Parish’s draft open data policy will facilitate public access to City-Parish public data assets, and into how City-Parish public data assets could and should be used.

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Baton Rouge Open Data Policy



WHEREAS, the Metropolitan Council of the City of Baton Rouge and Parish of East Baton Rouge hereby supports the use of open data and systems, as well as citizen access to public data, and thus seeks to adopt and implement a formal open data policy; and

WHEREAS, the Metropolitan Council supports the Mayor-President in the implementation of related administrative processes or workflows, thereby ensuring compliance across all departments over which the Metropolitan Council or Mayor-President have legislative, executive, and policy authority; and

WHEREAS, there remain many datasets collected by the City of Baton Rouge and Parish of East Baton Rouge (hereafter, “the City-Parish”) that are stored in ways which impede the ability of City-Parish leadership and key public stakeholders to aggregate, analyze and synthesize it to better allocate public resources; and

WHEREAS, access to public information promotes a higher level of civic engagement and allows citizens to provide valuable feedback to government officials regarding local issues; and

WHEREAS, every citizen has the right to prompt, efficient service from the government; and

WHEREAS, the City-Parish’s existing open data program provides public and interdepartmental access to key datasets that improves the provision of services, increases transparency and access to public information, and enhances coordination and efficiencies among departments, partner organizations and citizens; and

WHEREAS, one goal of an open data policy is to proactively provide information currently sought through public records requests, thereby saving the City-Parish time and money; and

WHEREAS, the City-Parish has made significant strides in providing such information through its open data portal, thereby recognizing the benefit of adopting a formal open data policy defining an “open by default” mandate for public information; and

WHEREAS, in commitment to the spirit of open government, the City-Parish will consider public information to be open by default and will proactively publish data and data containing information, consistent with relevant public records law and not deemed to be protected or sensitive information; and

WHEREAS, information technologies, including web-based and other Internet applications and services, are an essential means for open government, and good government generally; and

WHEREAS, by publishing structured, standardized data in machine readable formats the City-Parish seeks to encourage the local software community to develop software applications and tools to collect, organize, and share public record data in new and innovative ways; and

WHEREAS, the protection of privacy, confidentiality and security must continue to be maintained as a paramount priority while also advancing the City-Parish’s transparency and accountability efforts through open data.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Metropolitan Council of the City of Baton Rouge and Parish of East Baton Rouge that:

Section 1.

The Metropolitan Council adopts an open data policy as follows:

“Open Data Program

Part 1. Policy.

The Open Data Program for the City of Baton Rouge and Parish of East Baton Rouge applies to all City-Parish departments and agencies. The program requires that each department or agency comply with the following:

  1. Proactively release all publishable City-Parish data, making it freely available in appropriately varied and useful open formats, using an open license with no restrictions on use or reuse, and fully accessible to the broadest range of users to use for varying purposes;

  2. Publish high quality, updated data with documentation (metadata) and permanence to encourage maximum use;

  3. Provide or support access to free, historical archives of all released City-Parish data;

  4. Measure the effectiveness of datasets made available through the Open Data Program by connecting open data efforts to the City-Parish’s programmatic priorities;

  5. Minimize limitations on the disclosure of public information while appropriately safeguarding protected and sensitive information;

  6. Support innovative uses of the City-Parish’s publishable data by agencies, the public, and other partners;

  7. Encourage electronic methods of data collection to avoid inefficiencies of paper-based filing systems and make real-time disclosures possible; and

  8. Include specifications in future Requests for Proposals (RFPs) and comparable procurements to encourage technology solutions with an open source licensing model and/or the capabilities to store and expose public data using industry standard and open protocols.

  9. Develop contract provisions that promote the City-Parish’s open data policies in technology-related procurements, including, where appropriate, requirements to post data on the City-Parish open data portal or to make data available through other means.

Part 2: Definitions

A. “Data” means statistical, factual, quantitative, or qualitative information that is maintained or created by or on behalf of a City-Parish agency. This definition is inclusive of software source code developed or maintained by or on behalf of the City-Parish..

B. “Open data” means data that is available online, in an open format, with no legal encumbrances on use or reuse, and is available for all to access and download in full without fees [or a requirement of registration]. “Legal encumbrance” includes federal copyright protections and other, non-statutory legal limitations on how or under what conditions a dataset may be used. This definition is also inclusive of any software source code made available online (“open source software”).

C. “Open format” means any widely accepted, nonproprietary, platform-independent, machine-readable data format, which permits automated processing of such data and facilitates analysis and search capabilities..

D. “Dataset” means a named collection of related records, with the collection containing data organized or formatted in a specific or prescribed way, often in tabular form..

E. “Protected information” means any dataset or portion thereof to which an agency may deny access pursuant to the Louisiana Public Records Act (La. R.S. 44:1 et seq.) or any other law or rule or regulation..

F. “Sensitive information” means any data which, if published by the City-Parish online, could raise privacy, confidentiality or security concerns or have the potential to jeopardize public health, safety or welfare to an extent that is greater than the potential public benefit of publishing that data..

G. “Publishable data” means data which is not protected or sensitive and which has been prepared for release to the public..

Part 3: Governance

A. The implementation of the Open Data Program will be overseen by the Director of Information Services on behalf of the Mayor-President, who will work with the City-Parish’s departments and agencies to::

  1. Identify and publish appropriate contact information for a lead open data coordinator for each agency, who will be responsible for managing that agency’s participation in the Open Data Program;

  2. Oversee the ongoing management of a comprehensive inventory of datasets held by each City-Parish agency, which is published to the central open data location and is regularly updated;

  3. Continually refine and implement a process for determining the relative level of risk and public benefit associated with potentially sensitive, non-protected information so as to make a determination about whether and how to publish it;

  4. Develop and implement a process for prioritizing the release of additional datasets which takes into account new and existing signals of interest from the public (such as the frequency of public records requests), the City-Parish's programmatic priorities, existing opportunities for data use in the public interest, and cost;

  5. Proactively consult with members of the public, agency staff, journalists, researchers, and other stakeholders to identify the datasets which will have the greatest benefit to City-Parish residents if published in a high-quality manner;

  6. Establish processes for publishing datasets to the central open data location, including processes for ensuring that datasets are high quality, up-to-date, are in use-appropriate formats, and exclude protected and sensitive information;

  7. Ensure that appropriate metadata is provided for each dataset in order to facilitate its use including unique, standardized identifiers across datasets, where possible;

  8. Develop and oversee a routinely updated, public timeline for new dataset publication;

  9. Make recommendations for historical document inclusion and define a schedule for approved historical document publication;

  10. Ensure that published datasets are available for bulk download and/or available via public application programming interfaces (APIs) without legal encumbrance; and

  11. Establish a Data Governance Committee, consisting of lead open data coordinators from each relevant agency, to meet at least quarterly to encourage ongoing agency and public participation through providing regular opportunities for feedback and collaboration.

Part 4: Central Online Location for Published Data

a. The City-Parish will maintain a publicly available location on the City-Parish's website or in another suitable online location where the City-Parish’s published data will be available for download..

b. Published datasets shall be placed into the public domain. Dedicating datasets to the public domain means that there are no restrictions or requirements placed on use of these datasets..

c. Each published dataset should be associated with contact information for the appropriate lead open data coordinator of that dataset as well as with a file layout or data dictionary that provides information about field labels, values, and data source or creation information..

d. City-Parish departments will specify a recommended data citation form available for viewing on the central online location for published City-Parish data to encourage responsible reuse of City-Parish data..

Part 5: Open Data Report and Review

a. Within one year of the effective date of this Resolution, and thereafter no later than January 31st of each year, the Director of Information Services shall publish an annual Open Data Report. The report shall include an assessment of progress toward achievement of the goals of the City-Parish’s Open Data Program, an assessment of how the City-Parish’s open data work has furthered or will further the City-Parish’s programmatic priorities, and a description and publication timeline for datasets envisioned to be published by the City-Parish in the following year..

b. During the review and reporting period, the Director of Information Services should also make suggestions for improving the City-Parish’s open data management processes in order to ensure that the City-Parish continues to move towards the achievement of the policy’s goals.””

Section 2.

The requirements of this Resolution shall apply to any City-Parish department, office, administrative unit, commission, board, advisory committee, or other division of City-Parish government (“agency”).

Section 3.

This policy shall become effective ____ months/days following adoption by the Metropolitan Council.

Section 4.

The City-Parish shall collaborate with internal and external stakeholders as necessary to achieve all components of this Open Data Program and gather public input into its ongoing development and management, including those in the private sector, nonprofit organizations, academic institutions, other government agencies, and public citizens.

  • User profile image

    Marc Jones

    Include specifications in future Requests for Proposals (RFPs) and comparable procurements to encourage technology solutions with an open source licensing model and/or the capabilities to store and expose public data using industry standard and open protocols.

    I urge you to take advantage of the guidance provided by the Federal Government's Project Open Data ( Although directed at federal agencies it offers a list of best practices for jump starting their open data efforts, and a complete selection of tools that can be used to gather and publish open data sets. All of the tools are available for free since they are under free and open source software licenses and can be used by anyone including city governments for free. Because of the large community of government agencies using and contributing to the tools you can trust that the tools will be supported and improved over time without risking being locked into a single vendor or escalating support costs.

    For example Project Open Data recommends using the free and open source data portal CKAN ( that is used by the Federal General Services Administration's central data portal at (, or using DKAN (, another free and open source data portal used by numerous federal and state agencies. Since both CKAN and DKAN use open data formats, open protocols, and open APIs a rich selection of tools work with both. And agencies have the ability to select from any vendor offering support for CKAN or DKAN without fear of vendor lock-in since there is a competitive market for offering support services.

    Open data is essential for increasing transparency and democratizing access to government information and participation. Data can never truly be open however if citizens have to pay a fee or struggle to locate the data through a maze of proprietary and secretive protocols that can change based on the financial interests of vendors. To truly open data the data should be gathered and published using open source tools that provide transparency to not just the data but the integrity and availability of the data as well. Open source platforms such as CKAN and DKAN provide that transparency by ensuring that government entities can select their publication platform independently of financial costs and vendor agreements. Open source platforms can be used for free and government entities are never required to pay any licensing fees based on usage or any other hidden fees.

    Advantages of open source licensing include: No licensing fees at (Including no licensing fees based on the number of data sets or the amount of data published) Agency free to select any vendor for support agreements including the ability to switch support vendors while continuing to use the same software and instance Ability to use the software without a support contract if the agency determines that support contract is not cost effective, it has the ability to self support with existing staff, or needs to reduce costs temporarily Agency has the ability to make modifications to the software that meets its needs by using its own staff or partnering with an external vendor. Agency can use the improvements created by other government agencies that it determines are useful for free and without the need for inter-agency agreements Allows the software to work with any other partner agency’s platform including the industry standard platforms CKAN and DKAN used by and widely used by State and national governments.

    Since the use of open source software to host open data allows the agency a unrestricted right to use the software indefinitely citizens can rely on the location of the open data. A stable location allows citizens, journalists, and businesses rely on the availability of the data incorporate accessing the data into their own procedures, and automated processes. In contrast, using proprietary platforms forces citizens and business to expand money on licensing fees and development fees to build new tools to interface with the proprietary vendor and even loss track of the data if the agency ever decides to switch vendors. The inconvenience of switching proprietary vendors too often forces agencies to stay with a vendor offering subpar services even as proprietary licensing fees increase because vendors know the agency is “locked-in.”

  • User profile image

    erik r

    This open-data policy must not only involve information/data in written or text form, it must also include such information as audio and video formats, live/real-time such as GPS coordinates of C-P vehicles, trash trucks, C-P debris removal vehicles, public transit carriers, public-funded construction timelines, and public funded cell phone numbers.

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    Dudley Hartel

    Make certain that "applies to all City-Parish departments and agencies" includes affiliated organizations working on behalf of the City/Parish. e.g. I think BREC is an independent non-profit, and Baton Rouge Green does some owrk wiht public trees in collaboration with city/parish

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    isral duke

    encourage responsible reuse

    With allowances for some department-specific customizations. For example, maybe one department needs to ammend the city-wide XML/JSON schema to adequately explain, provide a narrative for its data.

  • User profile image

    isral duke

    protected or sensitive

    Raw data must be available for inspection by the public, auditing bodies, and vendors. IF the data must be parsed for display, make a statement about that, but preserve the raw, unparsed data too.

  • User profile image

    isral duke


    Vendors must keep records of their integration and use of such. To the extent possible, their integrations and usage must be executed in a manner that makes it easy to maintain, extend, or adopt by future vendors in the event of vendor's dissolution, sale, or other termination of existence.

  • User profile image

    isral duke

    programmatic priorities;

    And make it easy for other parties to connect for the purposes of measurement.

  • User profile image

    isral duke


    Permanence is vital to transparency and accountability. In the event of hosting or other logistics migrations, pains should be undertaken to preserve links and URLs to such.

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    Rhett Clement

    This resolution does not address any concerns over budget. I agree with the resolution in spirit, but I am currently casting a vote against it because I don't think it's realistic without addressing budgets or funding. Obviously we can't predict an exact dollar value impact, but that doesn't mean we can ignore the matter entirely.

    With respect it seems obvious to me that the departments and/or agencies that are expected to uphold this resolution will have concerns, or even push back over funding. What we are asking these agencies to do -- especially if we expect quality results and especially assuming a reliance on outside contractors and consultants -- cannot be accomplished without significant expenditure. The resolution has a tone of "let's get all the data online" which is over optimistic at best. Do I just not understand the process of drafting this policy? Do we avoid discussions of funding or budget priorities at this stage of the process?

  • User profile image

    Rhett Clement

    consisting of lead open data coordinators from each relevant agency

    and the Mayor-President should participate. The investment of the Mayor-President's time will signal the priority and commitment to this initiative. This is congruent with the COSO framework of internal controls which recognizes how the appropriate "tone at the top" is a critical success factor.

  • User profile image

    Rhett Clement

  • User profile image

    Rhett Clement

    Ensure that appropriate metadata is provided for each dataset in order to facilitate its use including unique, standardized identifiers across datasets, where possible;

    Data sets should also include some form of narrative documentation to provide a high-level, conceptual introduction to the data set. The user should be able to infer if the data set appears relevant to them based on this description.

  • User profile image

    Rhett Clement

    appropriate metadata

    Appropriate metadata is valuable for developers looking to consume open data. System documentation is apt to be neglected or short changed. Consider the data elements "Division Num" and "Job Code" from the City's salary data set, the documentation should make clear, for example if these are internal codes or if they pertain to a recognized standard like a SIC code.

  • User profile image

    Rhett Clement

  • User profile image

    Rhett Clement

    “Sensitive information”

    All City-Parish systems that both A) provide data used in an open data set will B) contain sensitive/confidential data will be subject to the following provisions:

    1. The City-Parish will act as the custodian of data. Third party organizations will not be required to develop features that data from the system "directly" into an open data set.
    2. The City-Parish will have a role in the development and modification of these systems to ensure that i) Written documentation is created to capture the requirements concerned with the protection of sensitive data in the processes (automated or otherwise) that export data from the system. This documentation is subject to appropriate review and authorization. (In other words we need controls to assure that the appropriate steps are being taken to filter data that is exported from the system)
    3. The source code for these export features is independently reviewed and written evidence documenting the review is maintained (preferably on the open data portal)
    4. Prior to implementation, internal controls -- designed to assure that sensitive data is not included in data exports -- are documented including the schedule for performing these controls and the individuals responsible for them.

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