#DataNews: Transparency in Texas, DC’s Water Data Portal, & Smart City Innovations

June 8, 2017 11:18 am PST | Data News Roundup

This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture touts the benefits of open data for helping farmers make better decisions and fighting global hunger, while Government Technology examines how government-run prescription drug monitoring programs can be used in the battle against opioid addiction. At Texas Data Demo Day, local open data leaders shared the efficiency-driving benefits of increased transparency, including cost savings from a reduced number of public information requests. And, in smart city news, Detroit experiments with providing teens with sensors and Tom Schenk Jr., the CDO for the city of Chicago, talks about next steps after Chicago’s groundbreaking Array of Things project. Read more of this week’s open data news.

Open Data in Texas Brings Transparency Outside, Efficiency Inside

“The Data Coalition hosted its first-ever Texas Data Demo Day, sponsored by Grant Thornton and in partnership with Open Austin, on Wednesday, May 10th, in downtown Austin. …Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar summarized the benefits and uses of open data inside and outside: ‘We’ve come to see that greater transparency breeds greater efficiency [both] internally and externally.’ But even when an agency is ‘rich in data,’ it is a constant struggle to make public information ‘understandable, readable, and searchable.’ It’s a lot of work, requiring the support of a community of practice and users both inside and outside. At the Texas Data Demo Day, we heard how individuals at the state, local, and federal levels are working together to support the open data transformation in Texas.” Read more from the Data Coalition.

Detroit Imagines a Citizen-Led Smart City

“… what if citizens themselves could harness the smart city’s sensors and gather their own data, using it to reshape the urban environment in a way that better meets their needs? That’s the intriguing question behind Sensors in a Shoebox, a project to put compact kits of sensors in the hands of Detroit teenagers. Funded by grants from the Knight Cities Challenge and National Science Foundation, it’s a bottom-up approach to urban technology that aims to empower the community, rather than the technocrats. The aim: Help citizens ask questions about their neighborhoods and come up with their own solutions.” Read more from City Lab.

DC Water’s New Open Data Portal Shows Why Your Toilet Is Flooding

“When raw sewage is spewing from a manhole, open data is probably the last thing people might be thinking about. Yet, it is now the key communication tool for DC Water, Washington D.C.’s utility service, which has launched an open data portal for better communication with residents….DC Water CIO Thomas Kuczynski said the intent of the portal is not only to increase transparency with customers, but also to create a data hub that residents could visit for information on emergency incidents like flooding when a main breaks, or during sewage spills.” Read more from State Scoop.

Becoming a Leading CDO: Tom Schenk Jr., Chicago

“Tom Schenk Jr. knows that he could be making more money working with data and analytics in the private sector — he was once an investment banker and his technical acumen and ability to problem-solve could surely benefit any number of companies. But Schenk Jr., Chicago’s Chief Data Officer, wanted to apply those skills along with his passion for policy because he is most interested in ‘making an impact’ and ‘solving problems that actually matter.’ In Chicago, he has done just that; the Windy City is among the cities leading the way in the smart-city age.” Read more from Data-Smart Cities.

ANALYSIS: Using Data to Fight the Opioid Epidemic

Prescription drug abuse is a significant problem in America. One way states are attempting to address this problem is through prescription drug monitoring programs — government-run databases designed to track how doctors and pharmacists in a state prescribe and dispense controlled substances. The goal of these programs is to help identify who is prescribing and being prescribed controlled substances, and to take steps to combat abuse and misuse. Unfortunately, some state lawmakers have either dragged their feet on implementing these programs or have created policies that limit their effectiveness under the guise of protecting privacy.” Read more from Government Technology.

Smart City Director Weighs in on City’s Open Data

“For the city’s open data platform, not all requests are created equal. According to Edmonton’s website, ‘As an open city, our entire organization is working to build new ways to share information with citizens, to find new opportunities for dialogue and to make our services easier to access.’ However, there are some things users should know to make the process smoother. Soumya Ghosh, director of Smart City with the City of Edmonton, who is responsible for open data within the city, works on the back end of data.edmonton.ca, a website through which residents can make requests for information. Ghosh knows the ins and outs of the process.” Read more from the Edmonton Examiner.

Open Data Revolution to Fight Global Hunger

“In his first public remarks as head of USDA, Secretary Sonny Perdue noted that ‘…we want to make decisions based on facts and evidence,’ ‘we want to be data-driven,’ and ‘I need good data, I need good sound science to make decisions on…’ USDA recognizes that farmers, ranchers, and consumers alike use data daily, from deciding when to plant, harvest or sell their crops, when to turn out cattle to pasture, or where to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. This is why it is important that data be made available, open and accessible, to facilitate the best-informed decisions.” Read more from the USDA.

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