Yesterday afternoon, I went to an "open data codefest"- I had a blast learning, though I didn't write any code.
What's open data? It's a philosophy that public data should be machine-readable, so people can produce software mashups such as smartphone apps or websites that repackage the available information for (different, perhaps unexpected) purposes. Think realtor websites that incorporate municipal property data and walkability scores... or lots of things Google does now, such as maps incorporating transit schedules and bike paths. Or there's this LCBO search app that has indexed all the liquour stores in Ontario, to give you inventory search results in a more clean way than the official LCBO site.
So, I wanted to work on transit data, but we don't yet have a clean data-source. The best available is "screen-scraped" (unofficial, therefore suspect for accuracy and legitimacy). So instead I learned about GTFS, the common format for transit feeds. I learned how to geo-locate via web-browser (not just mobile; it works from the desktop, thank you googly overlords).
The region is investigating what sorts of data they can open up; apparently a few region staff-members were present earlier in the day.
I'm looking forward to seeing how this plays out!