Small City Tackles Big Data: Reading, PA
With approximately 88,000 residents, Reading is the fifth largest city in Pennsylvania. Compared to the Commonwealth’s biggest cities, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Reading is quite small but – population not withstanding – it is doing some big things in open data.
In fact, the recent launch of Reading’s open data portal, is only the second open data initiative in Pennsylvania. In 2011, Philadelphia launched a community open data portal – Open Data Philly. Reading Mayor Spencer Vaughn sees the City’s newly launched portal as a next step toward greater municipal transparency and accountability.
Reading, like many American cities, was hit hard by the recent recession and has been forced to make tough cuts to government staff and services. In challenging times, however, Mayor Vaughn Spencer hasn’t lost sight of connecting with citizens and answering questions. Open data offers a new way to communicate with citizens and journalists. In the coming months open data events – town halls and a hackathon – will provide new opportunities to engage citizens and inform them as to what’s happening in the city.
And, in tough times Mayor Spencer has found a way to reduce the costs associated with answering questions and providing information by streamlining the way that consumers access data like permits or police records. With an eye on innovation, better data sharing between city departments will help Reading make smart decisions on the use of resources.
Reading is setting the stage for greater transparency in the Commonwealth, something championed by Governor Wolf in his campaign. Reading emerges as another example of small cities, like Burlington, VT, Somerville, MA, and others leading the way for their region.