Customer Summit Main Stage: October 27

October 27, 2015 6:19 pm PST | Open Data

We started Day 2 with a sneak peek into some of the amazing enhancements and products coming in the next few months. Then, after a full day of breakout sessions, we closed out the conference with some amazing speakers: David Eaves, the CEO of Recollect; Tony Yarber, Mayor of Jackson, MS; and Garlin Gilchrist, Deputy Technology director for Civic Community Engagement, Detroit, MI. For more details, read below.

Saf Rabah, VP of Product at Socrata

Saf Rabah started off Day 2 with a sneak peek into some of the exciting product improvements coming down the pipe. First, performance improvements. Saf demonstrated improved ingress, uploading a 1 million row dataset right on stage. The search API is also significantly faster, along with a new, fresh look to the search capability on the Open Data Network. On the user experience front, Saf demonstrated how Socrata has been working to make complex but important information – like budgets and spending data – accessible, available, and comprehensible to laypersons. He highlighted improvements to Data Lens, including point maps, the ability to create multiple lenses per dataset, and new self-service options to manage and upload maps and boundary files.

David Eaves, CEO Recollect: IT Leadership and Government Data – Some Challenging Thoughts

Dave Eaves, government policy geek and open innovation thought leader, challenged the #SCS2015 crowd to think about the distinction between “IT” and “digital”. Eaves empathizes with the growing barrage of expectations that are landing on government IT directors’ desks: internal needs, external needs, analytics, mobile, usability, compliance, and many more. Eaves gave various examples of objectionable design in digital government services: pages packed with 50 call-to-action buttons and poorly placed legalese. Why don’t governments have product managers to oversee applications? Why don’t the majority of IT directors report directly to city managers and mayors? The problem is that governments are still thinking “IT” concepts like support, development,  and on a project level when we ought to be thinking “digitally” – strategy, data analytics, and product management.

Tony Yarber, Mayor of Jackson, MS: Put the Data Where Your Mouth Is

Mayor Yarber of Jackson Mississippi wanted to bring change to the city of Jackson using open data.  Doing things (or not doing things) a certain way because it was “the way it was always” done could be grounds for firing under his watch.  His focus became bridging the gap of those things that are talked about being done, and those that are actually done – because the things that get done are the things that are measured.  Mayor Yarber took drastic steps to better his city using data – including declaring an unprecedented state of emergency for the city’s bridge infrastructure prior to any incident actually occurring.  After discovering, due to irrefutable data, that almost half of his cities bridges had a high likelihood of collapse within the next few years, Mayor Yarber presented the data to the public, and allowed the public to comment to FEMA, allowing for emergency funds – this showed the power of an educated public to proactively better the community.  Yarber ended his speech with an inspirational poem, reminding us to live in the moment  – that each minute is an eternity to make a difference, and that open data can help us make each moment better.

Garlin Gilchrist, Deputy Technology Director, Detroit, MI: Making a Difference with Data

Garlin Gilchrist grew up in Detroit, with a deep love for his city that holds true today.  In his current position, he sees Detroit at a unique crossroads of challenge and opportunity.  He sees open data as a chance to make Detroit great again – empowering citizens by allowing them to be on the same pedestal as government officials in the decision making process.  Through training frontline staff in open data portal use in community centers across the city, city employees are able to have more personal conversations with citizens of Detroit – building trust in the government, and empowering citizens from all walks of life to do great things with data.


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