Jan 11 2017

Cincinnati Builds User-Friendly Dashboards for Open-Data Access

While many explore doing more with open data, this Ohio city has taken the plunge and built an interactive experience.

Many cities have embraced the idea of measuring, storing and analyzing the data produced in the background as citizens and government workers go about their everyday lives.

The challenge for most cities, however, is that making data useful requires professionals who can review, analyze and add context to the data. It also requires tools and designs to make it citizen-friendly. After all, the average person isn’t well versed in database administration and manipulation.

Cincinnati has put some serious muscle behind its open-data operation with the launch of its public-facing website, CincyInsights. The site offers different dashboards for informing citizens about public safety, street sweeping, snow removal and more, all of which aligns with City Manager Harry Black’s strategic goals for the city: Safer Streets, Growing Economy, Thriving & Healthy Neighborhoods, Innovative Government, and Fiscal Sustainability and Strategic Investment. The dashboards are built on Tableau, a popular Big Data visualization and presentation platform.

The vision put forth by Cincinnati is a more citizen-friendly answer to the open-data portals that many cities have started to offer. In Black’s view, most open-data portals aren’t up to par.

“It’s one of those things where it’s like when the whole open data portal movement started, people made this decision ‘Let’s build it and they will come.' But guess what? They have not come,” Black said in an interview with Government Technology.

Cincinnati’s chief data officer, Brandon Crowley, had his work cut out for him when he was tasked with ensuring that data tracking was in place for the things the city wanted to measure, said Black. For example, the snowplows already had GPS trackers on them, but the city now sends and receives the data through a fleet management company that gives them updates from the plows every three minutes.

“Really, the goal of CincyInsights was to create something people can access, but something they can also interact with," Chief Performance Officer Leigh Tami said. "People consume information in the form of data and I think the fact that government is trying to adapt to that is really significant.”

This move toward self-service in state and local government is something that more states and localities are shifting to as civic demand for such capability grows. StateTech touched on this broader trend last year in covering how North Carolina’s DMV offered more self-service options for its citizens.

While the CincyInsights dashboards puts Cincinnati leaps and bounds ahead of most localities, the city isn’t resting on its laurels either.

"We now need to begin to have an insatiable appetite for data from wherever it is, and pull in as much data from as many different sources as possible," said Black in the GovTech story. "Particularly as it relates to these dashboards because we want to add layers to them."


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