Civic Awesome: Open Data in the News for the Week of September 14, 2015

September 18, 2015 7:00 am PST | Civic Awesome, Data News Roundup

This week, the White House turns its open data spotlight on college rankings, while hopes run high that Obama’s open data initiatives will continue under a new president. Plus: Pittsburgh goes open.

“Dear Congress: Save Open Data”

“Imagine a government program that helps add over a trillion dollars of value to the economy every year,” says Joshua New in Computerworld. The program also “reduces fraudulent and wasteful government spending, and has widespread bipartisan support.” He’s talking about the Obama Administration’s executive actions to create open data initiatives, and says, “unless Congress intervenes, these benefits may disappear on Jan. 20, 2017, when the next president takes office.” New is calling on Congress to turn the executive actions into legislation, to continue their benefits for the country, and to maintain the U.S. as a global leader in open data.

Pittsburgh Launches Open Data Initiative

The city and county governments in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, received “a $1.8 million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation” to fund the first 18 months of their joint open data initiative. As Mike Richards reports for, the governments are forming “a team of data experts” to create a regional data center, in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. The initiative will include an open data portal through the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center project, operated by the University of Pittsburgh. The portal will give citizens access to information “from local governments, nonprofits, civic organizations and academic institutions.”

Goodbye to College Rankings

The White House “recently unveiled College Scorecard,a website that uses open data to assist anyone” in evaluating colleges and universities, explains Dave Calpito in TechTimes. President Obama hopes the new tool will help more people attend college. Citizens can filter for colleges based on location, size, graduation rates, programs, and more. “Everyone should be able to find clear, reliable, open data on college affordability and value,” said the president. Calpito notes the site also offers “comprehensive and reliable data related to the college’s student outcomes,” including graduates’ debts, earnings, and borrower repayment rates.

What Cities Should Do

A new study by Los Angeles County offers eight recommendations for any city’s open data program. In, Derek Major says the study, “Empowering Public Through Open Data: Findings and Recommendations for City Leaders in Los Angeles County,” found that 18 of 88 cities in the county have open data initiatives, with widely varying programs. “Funding was the most-cited barrier to implementing or expanding open data initiatives,” states Major, and most cities lack clear metrics to measure their efforts. The study’s findings are based on an array of input, including survey responses from city officials, interviews, and public scoring of portals.


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