Customer Summit Main Stage: October 26

October 26, 2015 6:01 pm PDT | Open Data
capitol building

Today we kicked off the second annual Socrata Customer Summit in Washington D.C.! For anyone wasn’t able to make it and is feeling left out, we’re going to post some of the key takeaways from the amazing sessions we’ve had! There were four platforms for this content: our main stage, and three breakout rooms (Amphitheater, Horizon, and Hemisphere). We’ll start with the main stage summaries below. Keep an eye out for more peeks into the great collaboration, sharing, and fun happening at the Socrata Customer Summit! 

Kevin Merritt, CEO of Socrata

DSC_1466The Socrata Customer Summit started off with Kevin Merritt, Socrata’s founder and CEO, telling the crowd about his vision for the future of digital government: Socrata’s mission is to work with each of our partners to help them use the power of technology to better serve their citizens — a mission highlighted by the diverse group of speakers and attendees with a huge range of experiences, of areas of expertise, of responsibilities, and who have a common mission to change the world with data and technology. He urged everyone in attendance to mingle, to expand our horizons, to share, to learn and to help each other succeed. And finally, he closed with a simple and profound thank you — from all of us at Socrata, to the amazing partners that allow us to do the work we love every single day. Thank you all so much!

Ben Wellington, I Quant NY

Ben WellingtonIn his free time, Ben Wellington, a data scientist living in New York, analyzes the Open Data of his City through his blog I Quant NY. Ben is part of a new generation of data journalists. He doesn’t talk about complicated algorithms or models, and he doesn’t write for other data scientists. He understands, and has repeatedly proven with his work, that Open Data has the potential to tell real stories and solve real problems. Ben has applied his skills to health inspections, traffic data, parking fines (and more) — helping his local government and his fellow citizens better understand how New York operates. In a basic sense, Open Data is about opening the channels for communication between citizens and government, and Ben is a fantastic example of how citizens can put their unique skills and insights to work and contribute to the process of governance. 

Miami Dade County: Carlos Gimenez, County Mayor and Mike Sarasti, Open Data Strategist

Miami-Dade County has created one of the country’s most advanced open data programs in less than 12 months since partnering with Socrata. They spoke to the crowd about how they are using the power of data to transform their government and the experience of the County’s 2.6 million “citizen-mayors.” By using data and embracing an open data philosophy, Miami-Dade County has created significant internal ROI. One of the cardinal sins of data collection, the Mayor notes, is that we spend millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of hours on this information, only to put it on the shelf in an archive somewhere. By making that data available to internal analysts through the Open Data program, he can also help change the internal paradigm of data collection, share data among his employees, and help his agencies succeed and improve service delivery to all of their stakeholders.

City of Montgomery, Alabama: Todd Strange, Mayor

Mayor Todd Strange delighted the crowd by sharing the story of how Montgomery, Alabama, the home of aviation, is embracing a new paradigm of citizen access and digital service delivery. From open data, to gigabit fiber, to regular hackathons, Mayor Strange is pushing his city to embrace technology and become the Silicon Valley of Alabama. He notes that Citizenville, a book by former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, was his blueprint to transform Montgomery and bring his government into the 21st century.

How Data is Revolutionizing Government Operations: Ron Galperin, City Controller Los Angeles

Ron GalperinIt’s not just about the data — it’s about what you do with it. Ron Galperin, Los Angeles’ City Controller, discussed his use of data to engage citizens and create internal efficiencies. By putting data that was previously unavailable to internal analysts in his Open Data portal, creating infographics and engaging visual presentations of data, and by using data-driven insights to advance the work of the city and of his office, Ron is truly creating an impact with Open Data. Use cases ranged from communicating about procurement, to identifying payroll fraud, to finding money that was sitting idle in special accounts, and sharing data between governments to create efficiencies.

David Marquet, Author, Turn the Ship Around!

David Marquet spoke abDavid Marquetout intent-based leadership, based on insights he gained as an officer on a nuclear submarine. He rejects the idea that leadership is “just for the officers.” Instead, he says, real leadership is about empowering people and creating a productive and healthy culture at all levels. He urges leaders of all organizations to focus on empowerment (not ego), and process (not individual personalities). By embracing the “know all, tell nothing” philosophy of leadership, organizations of all sizes can truly empower their employees and achieve greater collective success by unlocking the full talents of their team. As a result, his sub went from 3 of 35 sailors reenlisting to 35 of 35 reenlisting, and the sub was the highest rated by the Navy in the history of submarine inspections (despite the sub using nearly obsolete technology).

Kevin Lembo, Connecticut Controller

When Kevin Lembo came into office as Connecticut’s elected Comptroller, one of his first questions was about the value of the different tax incentives that the state offers to keep companies and factories in the state. When he was told that he was not allowed to see that data, he had a moment of revelation realizing that open data was not just about citizen access. It was about access for all stakeholders, including government leaders and politicians who lack access to the data they need to do their jobs effectively.

After significant effort and lobbying, Kevin was able to achieve his goal, see that data, and truly evaluate the state’s incentives — ushering in a new era of data-driven decision-making with state incentives. Now, in addition to the tax incentives, Kevin uses Socrata for Finance to publish his budget data, spending data, and a variety of other financial information about his state to help make Connecticut one of the most transparent states in the nation.

What I Wish I Knew Then: Lessons from the Private Sector

  • Karen Robinson, Founder and CEO, Acuity Strategies and former CIO of Texas
  • Kristin Russell, Director of Deloitte Digital and former CIO of Colorado
  • Claire Bailey, Director of Federal, State and Local Mainframe Solutions for Compuware and former CTO of Arkansas

Our three panelists discussed topics ranging from having a consumer focus around data consumption to utilizing 3rd party data, including social media, to improve public services. Being a CIO is a tough job in the public sector — and the panelists urged the audience to aggressively pursue partnerships and let others within government be your partners and ultimately have a stake in your success.

Data Currency: Unlocking Value with Visualization — Jonathan Schwabish, Senior Research Associate, Urban Institute

Good communication comes down to knowing your audience, and this principle holds true with data storytelling. Jonathan Schwabish reminds us that, in the quest for making data machine-readable and API-enabled, let’s not forget that it needs to be human-readable as well. For instance, what does a field labeled PBMOB represent? Visualization is key to human understanding. So how do you set up your team to create a visual, human-readable experience? Jonathan provides four steps:

  1. Build a data visualization team with analysts, designers and programmers, because no individual is a master of all of these skills.
  2. Avoid silos by arranging the team so that data folks also sit with subject matter experts.
  3. Make the data digestible and strip out everything that doesn’t support the main story.
  4. Build success by starting with small projects, show value, and iterate.

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


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