Connecting Technologies to Drive Community Data Success — The Philadelphia Story

June 8, 2015 9:00 am PST | Effective Governing

Philadelphia is no stranger to open data, and the Nutter Administration has inspired governments big and small across the country to take up the cause. While unique in its inclusivity to data publishers, OpenDataPhilly is one of few truly “community” managed open data initiatives, offering growing opportunities for its data to reach broader audiences.

Over the last four years, OpenDataPhilly has delivered a focused, well-used, and well-received data catalog experience to the civic technology community. The initiative continues to evolve to meet changing and diverse needs and create a series of data experiences so that anyone, regardless of technology background, can gain value from interacting with the site or one of its extensions.

As a major contributor to the community portal and maintainer of many valuable datasets (e.g., 311, Public Safety, etc.), the City of Philadelphia recognizes the importance of high quality and timely data. To improve its own participation in the community initiative, the City has partnered with Socrata to streamline its contributions by integrating with OpenDataPhilly to:

  •       Simplify the data automation process to keep data fresh
  •       API enable each dataset contributed by the City of Philadelphia
  •       Expand the download options for consumers
  •       Improve the resident and government experience with rich, out-of-the-box data visualization through Socrata’s new Data Lens tool

Philly Data Lens

The new partnership and integration allows the City of Philadelphia the opportunity to automate and streamline publishing processes while creating greater value for all of its stakeholders, government and residents alike. This in turn will help strengthen the case for greater departmental and external participation in the community program.

As governments and community data initiatives are tasked with doing more with less, the partnership highlights the importance of flexible and interoperable solutions that maximize existing City and community investments. The integration, shown below, represents a new pathway for how open data technologies can cooperate and mutually benefit all parties going forward.

Github to Socrata

The significance of this integration is no small feat and it represents a significant technical accomplishment — connecting instances of Socrata and CKAN, an open-source data portal platform, to provide a broader range of data access and data experiences to a broader set of stakeholders. As people continue to use the OpenDataPhilly data catalog, they will gradually experience more and more data that has been automatically pre-visualized for them, have interactive API documentation ready to use, and have the data available to download and access via API in a wider variety and consistent set of formats. Philadelphia’s world-class open data program is taking another momentous step forward using the Socrata open data platform in conjunction with OpenDataPhilly.

Moreover, the automation of data from various source systems provides the City of Philadelphia and OpenDataPhilly new opportunities to elevate the value of their published datasets, making the data more useful in applications, reports, and analyses. With data automatically flowing, it will firmly cement the City’s commitment to transparency and accountability. Chief Innovation Officer Adel Ebied comments, “We’re excited to announce a new partnership with Socrata, a national leader in open data software. We will leverage their new infrastructure to store (and routinely refresh) the datasets we release, then push the links to OpenDataPhilly.”

To kick-off this new arrangement, the City of Philadelphia recently released a dataset from the Finance Department’s Bureau of Administrative Adjudication that touches all Philadelphians: Parking Violations. This release emphasizes the benefits to all consumers:

  •      The dataset is available for download — in full — in CSV and GeoJSON formats
  •      There’s a powerful, well-documented API out-of-the-box
  •      Pre-visualized data that simplifies navigation for residents and answers questions about violations in my neighborhood, etc.

Read more about the City of Philadelphia and Socrata partnership on Philadelphia’s Innovation Blog.

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