Metro Nashville Government Open Data Policy

Shared for feedback by Metro ITS

Through its engagement with What Works Cities, Metro Nashville Government worked with Sunlight Foundation and Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Government Excellence to revise Metro’s Open Data Policy.

This policy review is one of a number of efforts designed to catalyze Metro’s digital evolution, to reinvigorate Metro’s Open Data program and portal, and to align Metro data-related policies, practices and activities with national best practices.

The Open Data Policy review will allow a variety of constituents and communities to provide input and share their insights into how and how well Metro’s open data policy facilitates public access to Metro public data assets, and into how Metro public data assets could and should be used.

Read the document

Metro Nashville Government Open Data Policy

SUBJECT: Metro Nashville Government DRAFT Open Data Policy

I. Scope

This executive order shall apply to all Departments of the Metropolitan Government except: Board of Education/Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, Nashville Electric Service, Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority, Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency, Metropolitan Transit Authority, Metropolitan Sports Authority, Convention Center Authority, Health and Educational Facilities Board, Industrial Development Board, non-professional employees of the Board of Health, and the offices of elected officials. The Mayor requests, however, that all Metro Affiliated and Supported entities voluntarily undertake to develop and adopt similar policies. Additionally, Metro will work with appropriate state and regional authorities to insure the highest level of interoperability and compatibility in public data assets.

II. General Policy and Objectives

A. This Executive Order is adopted to advance the following policies of the Metropolitan Government, to:

  1. Use technology to foster an open, transparent, and accessible government;

  2. Seek opportunities to improve and develop economic development, economic opportunity (affordable housing and workforce development), education, public safety, transportation and infrastructure, and civic engagement by supporting public use of Open Data;

  3. Improve delivery of Metro services and reduce duplication of services;

  4. Engage Departments and the public in using data to analyze problems, inform solutions, and implement changes to address priority areas and issues.

B. To achieve these policies, it is the objective of the Metropolitan Government to:

  1. Publish all Public Data Assets to Metro's Open Data portal in a timely and consistent manner.

  2. Publish Public Data Assets in machine-readable formats that engage the community by soliciting their ideas, input, and creative energy to support the development of applications and tools that enable the public to access, visualize, and analyze Open Data in new and innovative ways.

  3. Adopt standards that improve transparency, access to Open Data, and improved coordination and efficiencies across Metropolitan Government departments.

C. Each Department Head shall be responsible for carrying out this policy. Each Department Head may adopt supplemental rules, not inconsistent with this order, and shall also have the responsibility to preserve the confidentiality of a public record or information in a public record that is confidential under the Tennessee Public Records Act (T.C.A. 10-7-503 et seq.) ("TPRA"), or other law, and consistent with Mayoral Executive Order 34.

III. Definitions

In the interpretation and application of this policy, the terms defined in this section shall have the following meanings:

  1. "Classify" or "Classifications" means the classifications applied to Metropolitan Government public information, internal information, confidential information and restricted information, as those classifications are defined in the "Information Classification Policy," which is policy No. 7.2.1. of the Information Security Policies of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, effective November 1, 2011, recommended by the Information Security Steering Committee and adopted by the Director of ITS as provided for in Executive Order, and all subsequent amendments thereto.

  2. "Data" or "Structured Data" means final versions of statistical or factual information that (i) have a high degree of standardized organization, such as information found in a tabular format, which allows for ready use by import into non-originating systems for purposes of searching, reporting or manipulation; and (ii) are regularly created or maintained in digital format by or on behalf of a Department and are controlled by such Department; and (iii) record a measurement, transaction or determination related to the mission of such Department. The terms "Data" and "Structured Data" shall not include information in a narrative form, information provided to a Department by other governmental entities; nor image files, such as designs, drawings, photos or scanned copies of original documents; provided, however, that the term "Data" shall include statistical or factual information about image files and geographic information system (GIS) data. The terms "Data" and "Structured Data" shall not include any records included in the definition of Protected Information, below.

  3. "Data Catalog" means a catalog created by a Departmental Data Coordinator containing an inventory of all available Datasets of the Department and their relevant Metadata, excluding Protected Information.

  4. "Dataset" means any organized collection of data. The most basic form of a Dataset is data elements presented in a tabular form, with each data element represented by a column. Each row corresponds to a given value of that column's data elements. Datasets may also present information in non-tabular formats such as a geospatial data file or application programing interface (API).

  5. "Department" or "Departmental" means any Metropolitan Government department, agency, office, administrative unit, commission, board, or other division of Metropolitan Government subject to the executive authority of the Mayor.

  6. "Departmental Data Coordinator" means the person within a Metropolitan Government Department who is designated by the Department Head to have the responsibility to catalog, classify (per the Information Classification Policy) and facilitate the potential submission for publication of Departmental Data.

  7. "Metadata" means the specific information elements used to provide a complete contextual description of the data, its individual fields and contents, including any particular information necessary to understand or use a Dataset such as data source, record descriptions, field descriptions, update frequency, owner, and anomalies in completeness or consistency of records, etc. Metadata may be structural, descriptive or administrative. Specific required metadata elements will be determined by the Data Steering Committee.

  8. "Open Data" means public data or information that is readily available online, using best practice structures and formats when possible including open formats, application programming interfaces (APIs), and related open source code and/or models; Open Data that is collected by a Department covered by this Executive Order where the Department is able, required or permitted to make the Data available to the public, consistent with any and all applicable laws, rules, regulations, ordinances, resolutions, policies or other restrictions, requirements or rights associated with the Data, including but not limited to contractual or other legal orders, restrictions or requirements. Data shall not be Open Data if it meets the definition of Restricted, Confidential or Internal according to Information Security Management policy (ISM) No. 7.

  9. "Open Data Portal" means the Internet site established and maintained by or on behalf of Metropolitan Government, located at or its successor website.

  10. "Open Format" means any widely accepted, non-proprietary, platform-independent, machine-readable method for formatting Data, which permits automated processing of such Data.

  11. "Public Information" is information of the Metropolitan Government that is shared publicly to facilitate Metropolitan Government operations, as defined by ISM No. 7.

  12. "Protected Information" means, but is not limited to (i) all confidential or restricted information, as defined in the Information Classification Policy, or any record or portion thereof, disclosure of which could be denied under the TPRA or other law; ii) any record that contains a significant amount of confidential information as to which access may be denied pursuant to the TPRA or any other law, if the removal of such confidential information from those records, that would otherwise meet the definition of Data or a Dataset, would impose an undue financial or administrative burden on the Metropolitan Government; (iii) any record that reflects the internal deliberative or administrative process(es) of any Department, including, but not limited to, records on negotiating positions, future procurements or pending or reasonably anticipated legal or administrative proceedings; (iv) any record subject to privacy laws, or to copyright, patent, trademark or trade secret protection, or that are otherwise protected by law or contract; (v) proprietary applications, computer code, software, operating systems or similar materials; (vi) employment records, internal employee-related directories or lists, facilities records , information technology, internal service-desk records or other records related to the internal administration of a Department; or (vii) any information which, if disclosed on the Metropolitan Government's Open Data Portal, would raise privacy, confidentiality or security concerns, or jeopardize or have the potential to jeopardize, public health, safety or welfare.

  13. "Secondary Use" means any use of Data to produce another set of information, functionality, records, or modification of the Data beyond the original intent of the use of the Data by the owning Department.

  14. "Standards" are rules that establish how data are described and recorded in a consistent format; standards promote the utility and usability of data, and facilitate integration of data from multiple sources. Standards provide data integrity, accuracy and consistency; standards also clarify ambiguous meanings, minimize redundancy and document business rules. To the extent possible, Metro data standards will be harmonized with national, state and international data standards and practices.

  15. "Unstructured Data" means information that is effectively the opposite of what is defined above as Structured Data; information that is not consistently stored by predefined format, location or content, thus making it inconvenient for ready use by import into non-originating systems for purposes of searching, reporting or manipulation. Examples include email messages, videos, photos, presentations, web pages and other types of documents. Note that each of these examples have internal organization in place; however, their form does not facilitate ready import and use by other systems.

IV. Data Management Team

Each Department Head shall have the responsibility to:

  1. Within 30 days of the effective date of this order, designate a Departmental Data Coordinator. Departmental Data Coordinators will serve as advisors to Metro's Data Steering Committee convened by the Information Technology Services Department (ITS) the Office of the Mayor and two other Departments, which shall initially be the Department of Finance, and the Metropolitan Planning Department, but which shall in future rotate at the discretion of ITS and the Office of the Mayor.

  2. Within 90 days of the effective date of this order, pursuant to the training provided to the Departmental Data Coordinator by ITS and the Office of the Mayor, and using a template provided for this purpose, begin to create or update a Departmental Data Catalog of all available Datasets.

a) Each Departmental Data Catalog, with Datasets noted as potential Open Data, shall be made available to ITS and the Office of the Mayor. The determination of whether a particular Dataset shall be appropriate for inclusion in the Open Data Catalog shall be made by each Department Head guided by Information Security Management policy No. 7 and in consultation with the Law Department, Office of the Mayor and ITS as necessary, and shall be guided by the standards to be developed as described in part 3 of this section.

b) A Departmental Data Catalog may initially consist of as many Datasets as it is feasible for the Department to identify as appropriate for posting in the Open Data Portal. Following the initial Dataset designation, the Departmental Data Coordinator shall continue to identify additional appropriate Datasets for inclusion in the Departmental Data Catalog on an ongoing basis. In so doing, the Data Coordinator shall be guided by the standards to be developed as described in part 3 of this section. The Departmental Data Coordinator will be responsible for making this information available to the public and updating it on a regular basis. Metro's consolidated catalog will be shared publicly on Metro's Open Data Portal.

  1. The Data Steering Committee will serve as a resource to help ITS and the Office of the Mayor establish standards for publication of Open Data, the most effective processes for making such Open Data available, optimized methods of data collection and publication, and best methods of engaging the public with Metro's public data assets and other related forms to ITS and the Office of the Mayor, who, with the advice of the Department of Law, shall make the final determination.

a) The Data Steering Committee shall develop and maintain Metro's Open Data Operations Manual that contains standards and processes for publication and data quality, the Data Catalog template and instructions for data assets inventory, and required Metadata elements.

b) The criteria to be used in establishing publication standards may include whether a data set is particularly useful to Metropolitan departments or would be of significant public interest, for example, as indicated by frequent public requests for it.

  1. A Data Advisory Group will be established to provide strategic and executive level advice and recommendations about the management of Metro Data Assets and data-related issues.

  2. The Chief Data Officer will be responsible for creating an annual Open Data Plan that details publication plans, Portal and open data metrics, and related information about the status and development of Open Data in Metro.

  3. Metro ITS will provide a Portal Technologist to maintain Open Data portal operations and to provide technical assistance and coordination for publication.

V. Open Data Portal

  1. The Open Data Portal shall serve as the authoritative source for Open Data provided by the Metropolitan Government.

  2. The Open Data Portal shall be hosted at

  3. The Open Data Portal shall include a mechanism for the public to provide suggestions about what Open Data should be a priority for publication and give feedback on the published Open Data. The Department Head, in consultation with the Department of Law, ITS and the Office of the Mayor, reserves all rights to determine whether any cataloged Dataset shall be published as Open Data.

VI. Default to Open Formats for published Open Data

To the extent practicable, and except as otherwise provided herein:

  1. To the extent practicable and subject to valid restrictions, agencies shall publish information and public data assets online (in addition to other planned or mandated publication methods) and in an open format in Metro's Open Data Portal.

  2. The open format will provide data in a form that can be retrieved, downloaded in bulk, indexed, searched and reused by commonly used web search applications and software.

  3. Such information shall, subject to legal restrictions, privacy and security concerns, and Metro's applicable policies, be made available to the public without restrictions that would impede access to or re-use of the information.

VII. Require publication of Metadata documentation

Prior to submitting an Open Dataset for publishing, each Department Head through the Departmental Data Coordinator shall have the responsibility to provide sufficient Metadata needed to understand what the Datasets are and their characteristics. Metadata requirements will be determined by ITS and the Office of the Mayor with the advice of the Data Steering Committee, and will aspire to international best practices. All data should use unique identifiers, and be accompanied by a description of the data creation process, including where possible, open source code and/or models that created the data.

VIII. Create or explore potential public/private partnerships

  1. Subject to the approval of the Metropolitan Council and/or Purchasing Agent, as appropriate, ITS and the Office of the Mayor shall have the authority to explore agreements with external partners to publish and maintain Datasets that are open and freely available while respecting the privacy and security of Protected Information.

  2. The Departments of the Metropolitan Government within the scope of this Executive Order will aspire to:

a. enhance and expand cooperation among Metropolitan Government departments and agencies, other governmental agencies, private and nonprofit entities, and the public, b. fulfill Metropolitan Government goals and obligations; including proposals to: i. use technology platforms and links to appropriate websites, ii. engage and inform the public about open data, and create opportunities for learning and collaboration through Open Data Workshops at neighborhood facilities independently and in conjunction with the civic technology and community partners,

iii. promote collaboration efforts and opportunities with and between Departments, Community Partners and residents on a local, state and regional basis, and iv. increase use of innovative methods to obtain ideas from, and to increase collaboration with, those in the private sector, nonprofit, academic communities, and resident communities.

IX. Terms of Use

  1. By accessing and by using data made available through this site, users agree to be bound by the following terms, all applicable laws and regulations, and any other applicable policies, terms and guidelines established by Metropolitan Government. If potential users object to or do not agree with any of these terms, they should not use or access Metro's Open Data Portal.

  2. Unless otherwise noted, the data, documentation, and related materials on is public domain and made available with a Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal dedication. In short, the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee ("Metropolitan Government") waives all rights to the work worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law. Users can copy, modify, distribute, and perform the work, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission. Metropolitan Government makes no warranties about the work, and disclaims liability for all uses of the work, to the fullest extent permitted by applicable law.

Some data on may not be public domain, such as copies of copyrightable works made available to the Metropolitan Government by private entities. Works where CC0 do not apply will be clearly marked by a warning in the relevant documentation.

  1. Government data accessed through Https:// do not, and should not, include controls over its end use. Once the data have been downloaded from the agency's site, the government cannot vouch for their quality and timeliness. Furthermore, Metropolitan Government cannot vouch for any analyses conducted with data retrieved from

  2. Metropolitan Government requests that when content, data, documentation, code, and related materials from is used, proper credit or attribution be given or included.

X. Future review for potential changes to this Executive Order

In acknowledgment that technology changes rapidly, Metro's progress towards meeting the open government goals set forth in this Order shall be evaluated one year from the Effective Date of this Order, and annually thereafter to include revisions or additions that will continue to position the Metropolitan Government as a leader on issues of openness, efficiency, collaboration, and information technology best practices. The evaluation shall be released on the Open Data portal, and shall include criteria to be developed by the Data Advisory Group.


  • User profile image

    Jurnell Cockhren

    Section IX, item 4: Given the requirement to provide credit or attribution, this section is unclear on the acceptable forms of attribution and to whom the attribution applies.

    For example, would a user of the Street Sweeping Schedule dataset ( should attribution marks/text say "Metro Water Services" or "Metro Government"?

    Possible Solution: Change Section IX, Item 4 to say: "Metropolitan Government requests that when content, data, documentation, code, and related materials from is used, proper credit or attribution be given to the originating Department or 'Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County', whichever is the most specific and accurate."

    Moreover, it'll probably be a good idea to say that use of the 'Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County' seal is not an acceptable form of attribution.

  • User profile image

    Jurnell Cockhren

    proper credit or attribution be given or included

    Will there be a follow-up document describing how best to give attribution?

  • User profile image

    Jurnell Cockhren

  • User profile image

    Jason Parker

    I would encourage greater description of acceptable metadata in Section VII. The bare minimum should include:

    1. For tables, a description of what the data describe, how the data were collected, and for what purpose.
    2. For each table, there should be a list of the included variables, definitions of what each variable means, and (where applicable) a code list for each variable describing what each possible value means.
    3. For data sets, there should be a description of how the different tables relate to each other.

    I think it's important to add this level of detail to the data policy to ensure that folks don't cut corners on metadata. Without this type of information, it's very difficult to use public data well.

  • User profile image

    Jennifer Thompson

    I'm so glad that Metro is heading in a more open, transparent direction - and love the idea of Open Data Workshops and public/private partnerships.

  • User profile image

    Jennifer Thompson

Showing 1 to 6 of 6 entries