Develop a plan for the continued maintenance and sustainment of new mobile transit applications utilizing transit open data, to minimize the risk that application developers will stop supporting the applications.
Experience from Government Open Data Applications Contests
Made Public Date

Open Data Apps Can be Difficult to Sustain


In the late 2000s, there was a large push for open data in the larger metropolitan areas of the United States. Large cities, including Washington, D.C., New York City, and San Francisco, sponsored contests that challenged citizens to create applications (apps) for the public that utilized open data sets published by government agencies. Applications were developed that helped residents navigate transit systems and parking meters, among other things. However, several factors led to many prize winners later deciding to stop updating their applications.

Lessons Learned

Developers that won city data competitions and were interviewed by Government Technology had the following advice to offer city agencies:

Provide data that is in a standardized format, such as the General Transit Feed Specification standard. Providing data sets that fit standards encourages the development of national scale applications, which are easier to monetize for developers. Developers will still develop applications that use data sets that are not in standard forms, but it discourages the use of the same app for multiple cities. If developers find the data valuable enough, they will develop around the inconsistencies or someone will sell a standardized version of the data.

Verify the accuracy of the data before posting it. One of the developers interviewed suggested that agencies use software that does it automatically to remove the tedious process of manual verification, which can lead to backlogs of data updates. The need to "clean up" the data can discourage developers from using the data set.

Plan and budget for the continued provision of open data. Many of the developers cited the lack of data updates as a reason for no longer maintaining their applications, since the data the applications used is either no longer available or out of date.