Open Data

Frequently asked questions

Are you interested in how toronto.ca/open functions? Read the answers to these frequently asked questions for quick insight into how we administer and provide data to the web.

FAQ

ExpandWhat is open data and toronto.ca/open

Open Data is raw, machine readable* data that can be freely used, reused and redistributed by anyone. NOTE: "machine readable data" is not a PDF file but Excel, CSV or other file format that can be read, analyzed and interpreted by software & analytics tools

The City of Toronto makes the data it collects available to the public via toronto.ca/open. By offering data sets for others to use, the City supports Open Government and unfiltered access to its information. Applications and analysis created using City data provide potential benefits for everyone. The goal over time is to offer all data allowable by law through toronto.ca/open. The site is evolving and we continue to improve how data is presented. We welcome feedback via twitter @Open_TO and the DataTO Google Group. You can also mail the open data team directly at opendata@toronto.ca.

ExpandHow do you use open data?

Developers will download data and combine information from multiple sources (including what is found at toronto.ca/open) to create applications for mobile or web. Researchers and data journalists will use the data for analysis and interpretations or for teaching about data. Often, users will combine many sources together in a mashup. Mashups offer increased value within applications, visualisations or interpretations simply because the final presentation and delivery tends to be more complete and inclusive. An example of a useful mashup: dinner and entertainment lovers would benefit from an events listing application that includes ride guides, line up information, parking availability and restaurants and menus in the same locale. Developing this type of mashup would involve bringing several data sets together into one application and may include data from many sources..

ExpandHow do you count your data sets?

We count a "data set" as one item published through a unique template in our content management publishing system. The data set itself can contain many files available for download. We have a listing on both our index page and the data catalogue page that tracks both the total number of data sets and how many files are found within these data sets (excluding the number of files contained inside a zip file).

We also tend to combine yearly data into one file vs. counting each month as a separate data set. Some other cities, including New York City, tend to take each month and count it as 1 data set. So, they will have 12 "sets" in their count vs. 1 "set" in our count. Our publishing system influences our counting as well since we present all the files related to a specific topic inside a unique template. It would be prohibitive to present each and every file available as a separate item using a separate template for each and every file. Let's just say, this would make navigation a nightmare even if it would increase our total "count" by a huge number.

Given the differences in counting ways and methods, it really isn't easy to apply an apples to apples measurement between cities. We also argue it is not so much how you count as it is how you present the data so it is easy to find and get to the downloading as quickly as possible.

ExpandHow are datasets selected?

City of Toronto staff responsible for data collection are working with City divisions toward releasing all allowable data as soon as possible. The Open Data Team  actions requests from users specifically through mail, twitter and in-person contacts. The team also meets with division staff to determine what may be released in a given year. It's an organic and ongoing process - co-dependent on technology that supports open data releases, staff resources to enable open data releases and privacy determinations.

ExpandWill personal information be at risk?

The City of Toronto complies fully with freedom of information and privacy laws and will not release information that is not legally collected and/or infringes on privacy rights. In fact, some requests from the community for data are not actionable due to privacy restrictions. In some cases, such as within business information content, you will find specific ownership information is released. If you are a business operator/owner and have not incorporated under a company name, you may find your individual information listed within business data.

ExpandHow frequently is data updated?

Operating divisions and program areas within the City manage their own data sets and update them to meet their business needs. Each data set page (linked off the data set catalogue) contains information on accuracy and expected update frequency per data set. The Open Data Team also tweets data set updates and new data sets published: follow @Open_TO and #dataeh

ExpandHow can people submit ideas for data sets?

There is a Google Group providing an active engagement platform at DataTO. You can reach out to the open data team directly at opendata@toronto.ca and @Open_TO.We are very interested in celebrating how City of Toronto open data is being used. Let us know what you are doing, what you need, what you have in mind!

NOTE: We are also  looking to crowd source the Tools and Help page: You can contribute to making user/developer life easier by letting us know of hints, tools, solutions and any work-arounds you may discover. We'll add these to the Tools and Help page.

ExpandIf a problem occurs with a data set?

Data sets are uncorrupted and virus-free. If you find a problem with a file, report it to us directly by mailing opendata@toronto.ca. Include the name of the data set and a description of the problem. Before you write us, please be sure to verify you have the appropriate program to open the data set. You will find helpful information in the various "read me" files that come with date sets and files. Some of these "read me" items may also be included inside zip files that you will have to open once the zip file is downloaded. See also the Tools and Help page.