Civic Awesome: Open Data in the News for the Week of July 5, 2015

The City of Los Angeles steps out again as an open data leader, while Minneapolis gets set to improve its open data game. Plus: Civic tech strikes again, this time in NYC.

Government as Data Consumer

Ron Galperin, the Controller for the City of Los Angeles, wants government agencies to realize they’re not just data publishers, they’re also data consumers. Galperin comments in RouteFifty.com, “Metrics consistently show that half of the traffic to most open data portals comes from internal users.” He points to the power of open data to save taxpayers’ money and workers’ time by alleviating the need to create data sharing systems piecemeal. By operating the controller’s office as “open by default” in partnership with Socrata, Galperin explains, “we are breaking down walls between managers and departments, opening up conduits for sharing information and learning.”

Minneapolis: What’s Next?

City council members and residents alike are on board with the open data initiative in Minneapolis, Minnesota, reports Erin Golden in the Star Tribune. Seven of the city’s 12 departments are releasing data on 311 calls, fires, land use data, and more. Golden also notes, though, the lack of data releases from “the offices of the city attorney, assessor or clerk, or from the Civil Rights Commission or Internal Audit Department.” Otto Doll, the city’s chief information officer, acknowledges the need for more data to get released, as well as the city’s goal to do more than publish spreadsheets. Recent data visualization efforts include “an interactive map of dangerous dogs and a searchable tour of public art.”

Socrata Speaks Out

Check out our very own Ken Melero, Director of Federal Sales for Socrata. He’s the latest featured guest of data visualization guru Jonathan Schwabish, on the PolicyViz Podcast. Melero offers a true insider’s view, answering Schwabish’s questions on the meaning and opportunity of open data. “We view data as this natural resource,” Melero explains. Just like water or electricity, Melero emphasizes, data is a utility government can manage on behalf of citizens to transform society. “It helps you in your everyday life,” Melero states. He also addresses data sharing between government agencies, and privacy challenges.

NYC Civic Techies Inspire Change

The chief technology officer (CTO) for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was so impressed by a hackathon project that he’s ready to release more data, states Miranda Neubauer in Capital. CTO Robert Galvin comments the three data science students “created a really compelling visualization” on morning train crowding that showed the Port Authority the power of visualizations in the planning process. Galvin wants to release more data, and create more partnerships between the Port Authority and the tech community — for the public good.

California: Open Data Legislation Update

The Golden State is poised to have its first Chief Data Officer (CDO), if proposed legislation passes. While the state’s Attorney General’s office now handles open data, the new CDO “would be tasked with creating an open-data roadmap, open-data guidelines, an open-data working group, and a statewide open-data portal,” explains Dave Maass in EFF.com. Another bill would “would require local government agencies to publish a list of all the information systems they maintain,” says Maass, including identifying information about system vendors. Maass contends both bills “put California on the right track to greater transparency, accountability, civic engagement, and innovation.”

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