Celebrating the Gift of Open Data

‘Tis the season to give and receive and, in that spirit, we want to celebrate some clever gifts of open data cities have given their citizens.

The Atlantic’s recently published a list of the “The Best Open Data Releases of 2012.” We like the list for a number of reasons, including:

1. Focus on usefulness. Author Emily Badger chose not just on interesting datasets, but those with outstanding tools, maps and data visualizations to accompany them. She looked for offerings that could be “used by anyone, not just developers and data geeks.” We agree that usefulness trumps all.

2. In the family. Eight of the ten cities mentioned are Socrata customers. We’re always happy to see these innovators recognized for their efforts in what Badger calls the “still relatively young field of urban open data.”

Cheers to Open Data’s Bright Future

While we’re excited about all 10 datasets on the list, we want to highlight just three of them here and how they demonstrate the potential for open data to improve people’s lives.

1. Government accountability. After Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu wanted to ensure that recovery efforts continued at a steady pace, keeping crime and economic hardship to a minimum. To do so, he made the plans to clear blighted properties, and progress against those plans, publicly available via a map on the city’s open data portal. This is a great example of using open data to support government accountability.

2. Citizen involvement. Life in paradise has its perks, but sunburns, sharks, and especially tsunamis are among the many dangers. Rather than burden itself entirely with monitoring every tsunami warning siren on the island of Oahu, the city of Honolulu encouraged citizens to get involved, adopt a siren, and report any failures. Sirens awaiting adoption are shown on a map.

3. Out-of-the-box thinking. Austin’s visualization of dangerous dog locations points up the room for creativity in the world of open data. Someone predicted that citizens would value this information and they were right. It’s exciting to think about what other types of data will become available, and indispensable, in the future.

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