On Monday, Data.gov launched a disaster-specific open data portal. This was an initiative first announced in at the White House Innovation for Disaster Response and Recovery Demo Day this past July. Many other innovative apps, tools and initiatives were also demoed that day.
The portal features a number apps, tools, and data relevant to disaster and is conceptually similar to what NYC did a couple years ago with its public safety data. In total, 114 Federal data sets are already indexed in the portal and I am hoping many more are on their way. A portion of the data seems quite useful to integrate with your own data. Another portion of the data seems to be relevant for only a select subset of people.
The reason this open data portal is such an achievement, though, is because the future of innovation for disaster is in how we collect, organize and share data and information. Technological innovation will continue to plateau if we can not figure out better ways to access our most valuable commodities, data and information.
As it stands now, the 114 data sets is an extremely small portion of data. Much more data and information is needed by many different organizations and communities to effectively mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recovery from disasters.
In addition, not all data that is needed is disaster-specific. For example, you may want to know population estimates for the jurisdiction you are supporting. This is relevant and useful data for disasters, but is certainly not disaster-specific.
Regardless, this is a huge step toward more open data for disaster. There is still a long road ahead and I hope this movement toward more open and accessible data keeps pushing forward.