Announcing the Public Data Commons and Awards Program

Apr 21, 2023

We’re excited to announce that today Filecoin Foundation is launching a Public Data Commons initiative to support open data projects in partnership with government and official organizations across the globe. This project brings together cutting-edge archival technologies and civic-minded public institutions to leverage the unique benefits of decentralized storage — because public data should be a useful resource, not a costly burden to store.

Additionally, as part of this initiative, we’re launching a Public Data Explorer Awards program, geared toward funding the work of local nonprofits and civic technology groups to store, access, and/or analyze their community datasets on the decentralized web. The Public Data Explorer Awards will provide up to $50,000 of funding per city. This award is intended to fund anything from a project analyzing air quality data recently uploaded to Filecoin to an educational seminar about how to access and use your city’s data stored on Filecoin or IPFS. Do you represent a city interested in encouraging people to build on open data? Please reach out to to learn more.

We believe that public data belongs in the hands of the people. However, according to the Open Data Barometer, fewer than 1 in 5 datasets are open, meaning they are easily accessible and available. Open data helps foster trust in governments by allowing citizens and community organizations to engage directly with governments and promote accountability for a more effective government. Data infrastructure is a huge part of this — enabling local, state, and national governments in making data available.

However, on today’s centralized web, the data that cities and citizens use sits in data warehouses owned largely by a handful of companies. When these companies suffer blackouts, vast swaths of the web can go down for hours, including websites that are massive contributors to the economy. That’s the problem with centralized servers — they create a single point of failure. On a decentralized web, websites will stay up even if some nodes fail, and, most importantly, the availability of information is not dependent on any one server or company.

In December 2021, in an effort to understand how decentralized technology can help cities better deliver for their citizens, we partnered with Protocol Labs to enable New York City to expand its Open Data project. The goal of the partnership — which spans five years and comes at no cost to the city — is to expand accessibility and improve accountability and transparency, in order to foster trust and enable more engagement from stakeholders.

Working with the city’s technology team, the Foundation identified several data sets that were part of the city’s Open Data project. These data sets represent particularly foundational categories of knowledge that enable New York City to be a better place to live and work. Those data sets include:

  • City Record Online (CROL): a searchable database that holds all notices published in the City Record newspaper. These notices include information on procurement requests for proposals and awarded projects, notices of public hearings and meetings, public auctions and sales, and rules proposed and established by city agencies.
  • Air Quality Surveillance Data: a database of reported levels of air pollution over time and across all NYC boroughs to measure the air quality and health across the city.
  • City Demographics by Geography: a set of data and tools hosted by the city planning department that address areas such as housing and economics, population, transportation, urban design, and the waterfront.