Customer Summit Horizon Sessions: October 26

October 26, 2015 6:06 pm PDT | Data as a Service

From managing local marijuana legalization to transforming countries in Africa with Open Data, the Horizon room went around the world and back. Read more in this recap of the sessions from the Horizon breakout room at this year’s Socrata Customer Summit. 

Gleaning Insights from Civic Data

  • Amen Ra Mashariki, NYC’s Chief Analytics Officer
  • Ben Wellington, Founder of I Quant NY
  • Carter Hewgley, Director of Enterprise Analytics for FEMA
  • Bill Howe, Associate Director of the University of Washington eScience

It was a packed house involved in a wide-ranging conversation about the use of analytics and machine learning around civic data. An important first step is to understand each department, not forgetting state, federal, and non-profit organizations who may also have relevant data for your community. Make sure to stay open-minded; while you have a hypothesis and then find the data to back it up, other times you’ll find things you weren’t expecting. Don’t be afraid of machine-learning: different input metrics could help evaluate how resources should be allocated, but understand the tradeoff between predictive power (what the algorithm can tell us) and comprehensibility (the ability to understand how the algorithm works). An important suggestion around FEMA preparedness: Make sure data standards are well evangelized so that you don’t hit a data bottleneck when a crisis is imminent. And of course, make an effort to collaborate with other cities or states. A key takeaway was, “You’re not done when you do something cool. You’re done when you change the way you do business next time.”

Denver Marijuana Data — A Collaborative Approach

  • Denise Hawkins, Stacey Schipper, and Yvonne Moss from the City of Denver

Denver wanted to provide actionable intelligence about policy and process changes to make once marijuana was officially made legal in the state. They were specifically interested in answering questions about: How much marijuana was coming into the city? Where were the revenues going? Where were the clinics? How close were clinics to schools? Etc. Ultimately they came up with a solution to rework their systems to all use a unique key system to tie their data together for more impactful and accurate analysis.

Gijón, Spain’s Open Data Trifecta

  • Pedro López, Head of IT for the Government of Gijón

Gijón, Spain is one of the most forward-looking digital governments in Spain. Pedro López, the head of IT for the Government of Gijón, discussed how the City embraced W3’s “five star Open Data” approach and helped push data from closed city systems into open, accessible public formats to create operational impact and public engagement. Gijón does not ever publish Excel files — they publish real data and automatically update their new data to ensure that everything they create is kept meaningful and up to date. Pedro also addressed civic strategies including hackathons and creating useful transit apps to engage citizens who are largely unaware of how Open Data is changing government.

Is Kenya Like Everyone Else? Making Open Data Useful for Citizens and Government

  • Linet Kwamboka, Kenya Open Data Initiative Project Coordinator

Linet Kwamboka walked us through the journey of Kenya’s open data portal since it launched four years ago. After launching with much pomp and circumstance in 2011, the program continued to expand as the open data team hired open data fellows to increase capacity and publishing with Socrata as a consulting partner for the broader program strategy. A UI redesign brought a fresh, modern look to the website in August 2015. Today, four years after its launch, Kenya’s open data portal has over 500 datasets, over 52 million views and 40,000 embeds, and is one of the most accessed websites in Kenya.

Open Data’s Opportunity to Transform Developing Countries

  • Amparo Ballivián, Lead Economist, Development Data Group, World Bank
  • Jeff Kaplan, Director of NGOs and Multilateral Organizations, Socrata

Amparo Ballivián chose a unique format for her lightning talk — a role play between an open data advocate and a government official in a developing country. The conversation conveyed some of the common reservations and misconceptions that arise in conversations about open data in developing country governments. Jeff Kaplan, playing the open data advocate, proposed that even if data quality is sub-par at the outset, the best way a government can improve its data quality is to invite all interested parties to participate in cleaning it up and filling the gaps. Furthermore, governments can participate in the open data community with a relatively modest investment and still see excellent bang for their buck. Often, it takes only a single new investment (a new factory, or a business deciding to expand), for that investment to pay for itself.

Beyond the Portal: Open Data in International Development

  • Jessica Robbins,  Islands Communication Manager, Global Island Partnership
  • David Saldivar, International Development Lawyer, Oxfam America
  • Adi Eyal, Director, Code for South Africa

Our panelists led a discussion about how open data can inform international development efforts. As David put it, the focus isn’t just “look how transparent we are” anymore, it’s “what results are we getting for the work?” The Global Island Partnership, an affiliation of small island nations focused on sustainable development and conservation, uses an online dashboard to track and share progress using carefully formulated metrics. Oxfam America uses data to measure the effectiveness of its various programs against their stated goals. This kind of measurement doesn’t always require complex technology — during the ebola outbreak in Liberia, a meticulous scorecard of services provided was maintained on a streetside chalkboard in Monrovia. Code for South Africa works with the growing open data community in that country to answer questions that are important to ordinary people and bring them to the masses in an accessible and intuitive way. Their work with the South African government to put tender information online netted incredibly tangible results, when Botswana used this data when negotiating with Bayer to save P10,000,000 per year (approximately $1.5m USD) on pharmaceuticals.

Stay tuned for more coverage of Customer Summit sessions or follow #SCS2015. 


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