Civic Awesome: Open Data in the News for the Week of August 10, 2015

Cities take top honors this week: Berkeley launches an open data portal, Mesa gets on board the What Works Cities initiative, and NYC grabs the spotlight again. Globally, can open data shed light on the multinationals?

Live! Berkeley’s New Open Data Portal

“What can be done with open data is limited only by the imagination,” says interim City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley, celebrating the launch of the Berkeley’s open data portal. Powered by Socrata, the website offers free access to Berkeley’s most frequently requested public records requests, including restaurant inspections, crime incidents, business licenses, and the city’s tree inventory. As Tom Lochner reports in, the portal is all about “transparency, accountability, and civic engagement.”

Mesa Joins “What Works Cities”

One of our favorite job titles: Chief Innovation Officer. In Mesa, Arizona, that’s Alex Deshuk, and he’s got big plans. In, Deshuk explains Mesa’s participation in the Bloomberg “What Works Cities” initiative. “We plan on using Sunlight’s open data principles and guidelines,” building an “open data strategy to improve where we work, live and play.” Deshuk calls out three goals: increase residents’ prosperity, reduce blight, and increase downtown’s vitality. He believes open data is more than transparency, that it’s also “about the decisions, the dialogue,” and better decision-making.

Q&A with Ben Wellington: Making NYC Better

Professor, blogger, and computer scientist Ben Wellington “is behind a lot of small reforms with big impact,” reports Hunter Harris in the Wellington answers questions on how to tell policy-changing stories with nuggets of open data, from policing statistics to parking fines. Wellington also emphasizes the importance of reproducible results: “The best way to keep the quality of work good is to always release the underlying data with your analysis,” so that others can confirm the results. Ultimately, Wellington foresees open data creating “partnership instead of transparency and watchdog.”

Unraveling the Multinationals with Open Data

Groups like OpenOil and OpenCorporates are helping socially conscious investors fill information gaps, says the Many investors “rely on official annual reports showing a consolidated snapshot of the corporation.” But these reports don’t always give a full picture, since they consolidate the accounts of subsidiary companies that make up a multinational corporation. Open data is beginning to solve the problem. For example, OpenOil is “mapping ground-level contract” data, as well as “building tools to allow the public to model the economics of particular mines and oil fields.”