Civic Awesome: Open Data in the News for the Week of August 3, 2015
Two major cities strengthen their commitment to open data this week. Plus: Pennsylvania may use data to inform sentencing, OpenNepal seeks to track the aid given to Nepal post-earthquake, and a look at how developing countries should prioritize which datasets to publish.
In collaboration with the Marshall Project, FiveThirtyEight.com reports that Pennsylvania is poised to become one of the first states to use risk assessment as part of the sentencing process. This plan, says FiveThirtyEight, “could allow some offenders considered low risk to get shorter prison sentences than they would otherwise or avoid incarceration entirely. Those deemed high risk could spend more time behind bars.” While many have concerns about the potential program, Adam Gelb, Director of the Public Safety Performance Project at the Pew Charitable Trusts comments that this tool will add transparency to an often opaque system.
The momentum travels from coast to coast, with both Boston and San Francisco refining their open data policies, and targeting more datasets to release. CivSource reports that Boston Mayor Martin Walsh plans to release datasets relating to everything from Boston Police Department firearm recovery data to user counts in the library. And in San Francisco, Mayor Edwin Lee’s newly released two-year strategic plan covers automating processes, so data is released regularly and swiftly, and establishing standards.
At the Open Data Institute’s Open Data Leaders Network event, civil servants from around the world gathered to discuss challenges and best practices. Speaking to SciDev.Net, many participants commented that in developing countries, releasing unfiltered, giant datasets was not necessarily helpful. A more helpful strategy: Begin with real-world problems, and explore which datasets “can be part of the solution.” Liz Carolan, International Development Manager at the Open Data Institute commented that using real-world problems as a starting point “can change the way [governments] interact with people outside to prioritise the data they’re going to release.”
Just a day after the earthquake in Nepal, Bibhusan Bista, the CEO of Young Innovations, launched OpenNepal, a portal that “aggregates and publishes international and national earthquake relief pledges to the country,” reports TakePart. Transparency in aid is incredibly important: Hundreds of millions of dollars donated to Haiti in the wake of the 2010 earthquake have gone missing. “Independently verifying that the pledged money was delivered to the intended project is the biggest challenge for transparency and accountability today,” Bista says. “We want to prevent the Haiti mistakes and serve as a model for how technology can help facilitate transparency and accountability.”
Yelp “will provide statistics for 4,600 hospitals, 15,000 nursing homes and 6,300 dialysis clinics in the U.S.,” reports GovTech, with data coming from ProPublica and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. This will allow people an at-a-glance look at vital data such as the number of beds in nursing homes, quality of doctor communication versus state average, and much more.