Chicago’s Hidden Open Data

At this week’s hack night, Forest Gregg of DataMade gave a talk about Chicago’s hidden open data. While the civic innovation community has gotten used to going to for their open data needs, there’s a lot more data that’s not on the portal.

Chicago's Hidden Data

The last few OpenGov Hack Nights have been spent building out a website ( to help gather information on projects, people, and events in Chicago’s robust civic innovation community. Another goal of the project is to list all the resources available to developers (including Smart Chicago’s free web hosting for civic apps and user testing.)

A large part of the page has been documenting all the open data that’s not on the portal. Forest Gregg talks more about that below the fold.

One of the first resources that was looked at was the City of Chicago’s Vendor Portal. The vendor portal provides information on awarded contracts, payments to vendors, and solicitations made by the City. The system also gives out detailed information about bids that won their contracts.

One of the points that Forest raised how can we add value to the data currently available and is there a business case for doing so?

This also raised question on why we need to start businesses to address these issues and what are the social benefits of civic startups?

Another rich source of data that’s hidden in plain sight is the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD). The MWRD helps to protect the region’s water supply and works to prevent flooding to homes and businesses.

One of the major projects that MWRD helps to manage is the Deep Tunnel Project. Currently, during major storms the wastewater system is designed to dump wastewater back into the river to prevent flooding. When this happens, it’s called a combined sewer overflow event.  Needless to say, wastewater going into the river isn’t the most healthy way to deal with the issue.

The Deep Tunnel Project aims to fix this by diverting wastewater to tunnels and reservoirs  instead of the river. This effort has produced several data sets that are available on the MWRD website.

Lastly, no OpenGov Hack Night presentation would be complete without question and answer time!