As data continues to create innovative pathways to improve cities, Chicago is making this resource more accessible and powerful for everyone.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel just launched a comprehensive meta-data directory, a Data Dictionary, which gives unparalleled access to the data collected by all City departments and sister agencies.

Why does data need a dictionary, you ask?

Understanding the characteristics and context of data is important in facilitating reliable and effective use of the data throughout our portal. The Data Dictionary enables complex data to be better understood, while better enabling users to find specific data by searching specific terms. Journalists and civic enthusiasts can use this to more effectively discern public information before filing FOIA requests.

Our friends at the Smart Chicago Collaborative published a simple guide to how it works.


You can enter any term that you’re interested in (schools, TIF, budget, police) and it will return every item that contains that term.


Once you pull up a particular dataset, you will see details of all the metadata for that dataset that includes every variable. This gives insight into how the data is used, who uses it, and how they use it.


The database details feature gives valuable info like the department that runs the database, the point of contact for the database, which platform it runs on, how it loads the data, and the limitations of that data.



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