Open Data Portals: Where To Find Data

Finding sources of open data can be a little cumbersome because there are so many ways to find data. There are a lot of websites that house data. For instance, let’s say that you are looking for data on the bike routes in Philadelphia. One place you can look at is Open Data Philly which is a portal that provides access Philadelphia based data sets, APIs, and applications.  You can search amongst the over 170 datasets or even submit or nominate a dataset to be included on the site.  A quick search on the site shows that there are 6 datasets related to biking ranging from bike rack locations to commuting routes.  Many large cities and counties are have websites where they store open data for their municipalities.

Here are some sites for local/federal government data:

Philadelphia: Open Data Philly

New York City: NYC Open Data

Boston: City of Boston

District of Columbia: Open Data Catalog

U.S. Government: Data.gov

Brief History of GIS.

Most of my professional life has revolved around GIS (Geographical Information Systems).  GIS is a mapping application that is used by many disciplines to visualize and map data.  GIS systems use tabular data along with spatial data so that patterns can be seen and interpreted.

All kinds of data can be mapped such as demographic, environmental, medical, etc. There are many kinds of GIS systems available, some are pricey and some are available for free.  GIS does have a steep learning curve, but once you understand how it works you use the same principles to just about all GIS platforms.

If you are interested in learning more about cartography and GIS check out this article from the Smithsonian on the history of GIS.