How Open Data Tools Empower Chief Data Officers
Open data fosters trust and transparency in government, as it increases civic engagement and encourages community participation. Chief data officers can shepherd open-data programs into existence for cities by marshaling resources across agencies. Whether these agencies normally work together or not, a chief data officer can act with the independence necessary to bridge organizations.
A chief data officer also should have the authority to develop and test an open-data strategy and enact next steps, like producing a standard data format and determining platforms to analyze and present data.
Cities Marry Data and Geospatial Information
When presenting data to the public, timeliness is important. Chief data officers ensure the timely publication of open data, releasing it and updating it quickly so it remains relevant. The Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit championing open data, notes that chief data officers can engage the public with the data and collect feedback on it.
To maximize access to open data, municipalities must maintain it on a publicly available website. Cities may also produce applications that use the data, including applications that field service requests and other input.
Municipal leaders should adopt an open-data platform to collect and analyze data. Projects like the Open Data Platform initiative provide developers with a model to build interoperable applications and services across platforms, easing development and integration. ODPi is supported by major vendors like IBM and Dell EMC. Cities also should consider data visualization tools that provide context for people trying to make sense of what they are seeing.
For cities, many visualization tools map open data against geospatial information. Typing in an address gives you a map of the surrounding area with a graphic representation of the data’s significance.
Pittsburgh presents open-data visualizations that are easy to understand through its Burgh’s Eye View tool at pittsburghpa.shinyapps.io/burghseyeview, and Chicago feeds data into its OpenGrid tool at chicago. opengrid.io/opengrid. These are great examples of geospatial depiction of data.
Open Data Requires Continuous Oversight from Agencies
As the Sunlight Foundation advises, open data requires continuous attention and monitoring to remain effective. City managers should assess their open-data strategy at least once a year.
To that end, it’s important that agencies come together through a governance council or other means to ensure they are providing chief data officers with all of the information required and to think of new ways to deploy that information in the service of municipal citizens. As seen in the examples cited in this column, cities can gather input, bridge divides and foster inclusiveness with a successful open-data program.
Maintaining an open-data program makes a city more “transparent, accountable and participatory,” says the Sunlight Foundation.