Socrata Connect Day 1 – Data Inspiration from NYC to Nashville

March 8, 2017 8:58 am PST | Data as a Service

On Monday of this week, government data enthusiasts from around the country gathered at National Harbor near DC to swap stories, share successes, and dream big about the digital transformation of government. 

Here are the highlights from Socrata Connect – Day 1:

Socrata CEO Kevin Merritt opened the conference with an inspiring rundown of the talks to come, all around the theme of “Lead with Data.” Merritt proposed that tight government budgets make digitizing government data more crucial than ever. He said the digital transformation in government happening now will be as profound as when banks moved from paper checks to mobile deposits.

Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff explained how we’re undergoing the fourth major urban technology revolution, after trains, electricity, and cars. Now, connectivity, sensing technology, social networks, computing power, and new technologies such as 3D printing, are fueling that revolution. As as example, he noted that Sidewalk Labs conducted a study of how much families in a city that operated completely with shared, self-driving cars would save: $4,000 – $5,000 a year.

Doctoroff closed by encouraging cities to inspire each other by example. For instance, New York took a dilapidated elevated track and turned it into a beautiful, pedestrian pathway called the Highline Walk. Within a few years, dozens of cities had created similar projects.

Nashville CDO Robyn Mace joined CDO Eric Roche of Kansas City, MO to share about “Teaching Data Skills in City Hall and in Communities.” Mace has established relationships with professors and students at many universities near Nashville to turn them into data educators. And, Roche has a “Data Academy” for city staff.

CDO Brandon Crowley shared how the Cincinnati is using data to combat the heroin epidemic with an online tracker, while Jim Brooks of the National League of Cities spoke to nationwide efforts to educate cities with data on growth in opioid use. Crowley also shared the lighter side of sharing data with the public. 

Most popular use of Cincinnati city data, Crowley admits, is its online Snowplow Tracker.

An inspiring “Lead with Performance Data” presentation came from Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker and members of his community. With 7,500 new jobs created in the last twelve months, Prince George’s County has found that data, setting goals, and measuring them on a deadline makes phenomenal progress possible. Plus, a group of PGC middle schoolers and high schoolers entertained the crowd with live jazz just before the presentation.

The day ended with laughs over dinner. Attendees shared their wackiest, most surprising and downright-strange datasets. Some crowd favorites were zoo animal “output” and radioactive frog populations. Plus, Civic Engagement Manager Al Webber from New York City recalled a request from a citizen for “the number of active volcanos in NYC.” 


Want to know more about Socrata Connect? Go to Socrata’s Twitter feed or check out #SocrataConnect for more highlights.

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