Montgomery County Partners with Community to Unleash the Power of Open Data
By Ewan Simpson
Montgomery County is home to a large population of open data enthusiasts. The passion of the open data community was evident last night, as citizens, from students to county staff, braved frigid temperatures to attend the county’s second Open Data Town Hall meeting.
Town Hall Overview
The evening kicked off with an overview of the county’s newest open data initiative, openMontgomery, presented by project manager Victoria Lewis, followed by Dan Hoffman, Chief Innovation Officer, who walked through the County’s history with open data. Hoffman also spoke of the County’s 2014 plan to inventory and release data. This plan is expected to kick off in the spring of 2014, with periodic releases of information. After Dan’s speech, I was honored to speak on the value of open data and its ability to connect citizens and government in thoughtful conversations that result in improved services and a better quality of life for all constituents.
Citizens in Action
After the initial introductions and presentations, the attendees divided into breakout sessions centered around four different focus areas of open data and offer their feedback in regard to improving these areas.
- Health and Human Services: Citizens expressed a desire for an interactive map that shows all the NPO/service providers with flyouts that catalogue the hours of operation, appropriate contact information, and details about which services are provided. Gathering this information in an interactive map could help all service providers understand the landscape and work together to serve people. For example, the food pantry and the unemployment office could work together to coordinate employment opportunities for those without enough to eat. Public health issues, including asthma, diabetes, and childhood obesity, were highlighted with the idea of discovering the geographical concentrations of those afflicted, so that health education could be targeted in those areas.
- Public Safety and Emergency Services: This discussion centered around crime data, car accident information to aid with route planning, and defibrillator locations in public buildings, including the development of apps that could help locate pulse points for first aid assistance.
- Elections and Library Services: Citizens discussed the need for a contextualized view of voting resources by zip code.
- Budget and General/Misc Services: Attendees were primarily concerned with school budgets, separate to the county.
The lists from last night’s Town Hall will be incorporated into the County’s inventory and prioritization process. Support open data and Montgomery County by letting them know what datasets are important to you. Use the #opendataMC hashtag or visit their website and submit an idea.
Did you attend the Open Data Town Hall last night? What were your biggest takeaways?