Chattanooga Launches “City Insider” App
Recently, the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee, launched City Insider, a map-based web application that provides easily accessible neighborhood data to the public. The new resource is designed to empower residents with information to get more involved in their communities.
Powered by Socrata’s Citizen Connect solution, the City Insider app connects directly to datasets from Chattanooga’s 311 information line and police incident reporting system. A user-friendly interface puts individual pieces of information into geographic context, offering a neighborhood-level view of the different types of crime — from drunkenness and vandalism to vehicle thefts, burglaries, and assault. Also included are 311 requests such as missed garbage pickups or planned tree removal, as well as the ability to see area neighborhood associations and city council districts. Citizens can search to see what is going on in their community represented as data points on a map.
“It is our hope that City Insider becomes the go-to resource for Chattanoogans who want to know what is happening in their community and are committed to using the data to take action in enhancing their neighborhoods.” —Tim Moreland, Director of Office of Performance Management and Open Data
“It is our hope that City Insider becomes the go-to resource for Chattanoogans who want to know what is happening in their community and are committed to using the data to take action in enhancing their neighborhoods,” says Tim Moreland, Director of Office of Performance Management and Open Data for the city. He notes that it will also be an invaluable resource for business owners looking to start or expand business in the city.
One Address, Many Points of Information
City Insider offers a relatively simple interface. Type in an address and a given date range, and a digital map will appear with descriptions of reported crime and police incidents in the area. Users can drill down to sort information by type of event, date ranges, “clustering” or similar data types in a given area, as well as trends over time. Heat map views will show users where incidents of crime are more likely to occur. A choropleth map sums up averages for different events by neighborhood or city council district.
Once the information is found, City Insider makes it easy for users to share the data with others via email, Facebook, or Twitter. Individuals who wish to receive regular updates on particular events or neighborhoods can create a free account and sign up for daily, weekly, or monthly alerts.
Another Interesting Way to Leverage Open Data
City Insider is one of many open-data tools the city of Chattanooga has launched for citizens in recent years. The commitment to transparency began in 2014, when Mayor Andy Berke issued an executive order that each city agency publish its data on an open portal with easy access for citizens. The city has since become a model for open data innovation. “Mayor Berke is always looking for new and interesting ways to leverage our open data assets to meet community needs and improve the lives of Chattanoogans,” Moreland says.
Chattanooga’s Office of Performance Management and Open Data partnered with Socrata to build an open data platform complemented by multiple financial transparency applications. The platform has helped Chattanooga make city data accessible and easy to understand, presenting individuals with, for example, a clear view of how city funds are being spent. While designed primarily for public access, the platform and apps like City Insider are also appealing to community groups, civic leaders and government employees who are able to more easily find and share city data, reducing the time and cost of providing valuable information to decision makers and department managers both within and outside of city government.
“Mayor Berke is always looking for new and interesting ways to leverage our open data assets to meet community needs and improve the lives of Chattanoogans.” —Tim Moreland, Director of Office of Performance Management and Open Data
In its most recent Open Data Report for Fiscal Year 2016, the city of Chattanooga reported that the open data portal had received more than 1.3 million page views in under two years. As the amount of shared data continues to grow, so do the number of ideas for applications that make the data more accessible to the public.
Among the top five datasets viewed in 2016 were 311 service requests and area crime data, indicating a great opportunity to further inform citizens in these areas with a tool like City Insider. Ideas for new features come from a wide range of sources, including the local Code for America brigade, which encourages coders to pitch in on community projects. The city also hosts regular civic “hackathons,” where software development-minded community members are invited to brainstorm new ideas for applications to improve the everyday life of the public. App ideas have included an easy way to locate your local police precinct and the ability to find bike parking on your smartphone.
The city is also piloting a Facebook chatbot, or interactive digital agent, that pops up to offer helpful tips and advice while individuals are engaging with the app. Moreland was inspired by a similar bot offered in Kansas City, Missouri, which helps guide users through data to find specific information. “Giving citizens tools and access to information and data empowers them to be engaged in their community and take ownership over the outlook of their neighborhood,” says Moreland.
As much fun as it can be to launch new apps, in an interview with Socrata Moreland stressed the importance of getting accurate data and testing early with citizens in neighborhoods who will be using the app.
City Insider has been launched broadly to the community. Next, the city plans to target specific user groups that may be more likely to share the new application with others. If the past is any indication, the tool will likely be used by community leaders who want to use data to drive more productive conversations within city government. “The real measure of success will be if we are able to empower individuals and communities to solve community problems with this new and exciting platform,” Moreland says.
Want Citizen Connect in Your City?
Chattanooga’s work to bring more data to citizens, more quickly and with greater ease, is similar to what’s happening in city’s across the country. Baton Rouge, Santa Rosa, and St. Petersburg all have their own versions of Citizen Connect. Want to give the residents and executives in your city mobile, interactive data access?