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Mayor for a Day: Buffalo’s Open Data Policy


Mayor for a Day: Buffalo’s Open Data Policy

Today is the last day for the public to comment on a transformative opportunity for The City of Buffalo to adopt a new open data policy. The proposed policy will engage citizens, business owners, community organization and leaders to better understand their community and to leverage that understanding into action to improve the city.


By moving toward the adoption of the proposed Open Data Policy, the city has signaled its intention to make its data and municipal information available to the public online and in accessible formats. If adopted, Buffalo will join hundreds of other municipalities around the world that have opted to empower their citizens by sharing their data to the public.

Citizens will be able to download, export, analyze, and visualize data to help understand and solve neighborhood problems. Businesses can mine the data to better understand their customers and provide new market needs. Nonprofits and government will be able to generate new insights to design more effective programs and policies. The City of Buffalo will also reap benefits from this policy by removing themselves as gatekeepers of valuable data.

Municipal data is already being used to aid redevelopment in one community on the city’s East Side.

Since 2014, a group of dedicated residents in the city’s Kensington-Bailey neighborhood have been working on Bailey Fights Blight, a collaborative multi-year project that uses public art to improve the facades of vacant and abandoned buildings.


The group wanted to know if the two-year project had influenced business development in the Bailey Avenue commercial corridor, so they turned to the City of Buffalo’s Department of Permits and Inspections. In order to obtain the records of business licences and permits along Bailey Avenue from the past five years, a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request was needed.

The bureaucratic process took weeks, while the data analysis took minutes.

City of Buffalo data showed that from 2011-2014, the corridor had an average of 13 new business licenses each year, compared to almost 80 new business licences in 2015, just a year after the project started. Bailey Avenue was on track to beat that number in 2016.


This success helped the project secure funding from M&T Bank to support Bailey Fights Blight in 2017. Demonstrating the effectiveness of the program was critical to secure a $300,000 Better Buffalo Fund grant for building renovations in the corridor.

Stories like this are about to become more common across the City of Buffalo as it strives to make its data publicly available, while reducing the volume of labor-intensive FOIL requests for data.

The City of Buffalo has taken an incredible step forward by opening up policy- and decision-making to its residents. The proposed Open Data Policy is available online for citizens to comment, suggest changes, and vote their support or opposition. If successful, it’s possible that the city will use open platforms for future policymaking.

Today (January 24, 2017) is the last day to register your support of the City of Buffalo’s proposed Open Data Policy.

Read, comment, and vote on the policy here:



Research Consultant

Aaron Krolikowski is an independent research consultant based in Buffalo, NY, USA. Working globally, he explores the intersection of technology, development, and public service provision.

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