Socrata Connect Day 2: Shedding Bureaucracy & Embracing Innovation

May 18, 2018 3:03 pm PDT | Data as a Service

Last night, we danced the night away at the Spazmatics’ show, but we still showed up bright and early for today’s sessions. On this final day of Socrata Connect, we learned about how — and why — governments can shed bureaucracy, how data can be used to remedy problems ranging from potholes to health crises, and how IoT can further transportation departments’ missions.

Here are the highlights from the second day of Socrata Connect.

 

Embrace Innovation

Our first two speakers had very different roles in government: Tom Shack is the Comptroller for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Shane Marshall is the Executive Deputy Director of the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT). Both presented on the need for governments to ditch bureaucracy and embrace innovation — not as much as the private sector, but more than government does currently.

 

 

There are reasons, Tom pointed out, that governments don’t tend toward innovation — they’re risk-averse institutions, handle sensitive and private data, and also have important transparency concerns. But, staying still or having an “it’s not my job” attitude won’t work anymore, he says. “In this era, if you don’t evolve, innovate, and pivot, you probably shouldn’t be here. You constituents will replace you with technology,” says Tom, who calls on governments to be more innovative and creative. His office took that approach in launching CTHRU, a transparency site that stores the Commonwealth’s spending and payroll data, and the result is a solution that’s cheaper than their previous one, has cut down on public records requests, and is so accessible that the public can help spot errors in data.

 

 

Shane also spoke about the need from governments to innovate, and agreed that governments’ risk-averse attitude is the reason they can be standoffish about innovation. The solution, Shane says, it to shift from a mindset of “failure is a problem” to thinking of failure as feedback. Releasing data — especially when it reveals problems — can be scary. But, because the UDOT released all its transportation-related data in one place, people can ask interesting questions like, “How many crashes have there been in the past five years?” and, “Of those crashes, how many occurred on roads with bad pavement?”

 

Using Data as a Flashlight

In a panel discussion moderated by Socrata’s Matthew Hauler, Mona Siddiqui, CDO of HHS, Tyler Kleklamp, CDO of the state of Connecticut, and Matthew Erlendson, Founder of Origami Innovations, share the role data can play in the opioid epidemic. HHS hosted the Opioid Code-a-Thon, sharing huge datasets from multiple departments and agencies, all relating to the crisis. “We might not be the domain experts but we know data should be at the center of sourcing solutions to the most complex problems,” Mona said.

 

 

In a panel discussion moderated by Socrata’s Matthew Hauler, Mona Siddiqui, CDO of HHS, Tyler Kleklamp, CDO of the state of Connecticut, and Matthew Erlendson, Founder of Origami Innovations, share the role data can play in the opioid epidemic. HHS hosted the Opioid Code-a-Thon, sharing huge datasets from multiple departments and agencies, all relating to the crisis. “We might not be the domain experts but we know data should be at the center of sourcing solutions to the most complex problems,” Mona said.

Using that data, and thanks to data released by the state of Connecticut, Matthew Erlendson was able to create an app at the HHS Code-a-Thon that helps emergency responders prepare for outbreaks of overdoses, ensuring they have an adequate supply of reversal drugs. As Tyler pointed out, we don’t need data to show us that the opioid crisis is a problem. The value of data comes from its ability to make valuable connections and provide solutions.In Connecticut, for instance, there’s a public dataset on all pharmacies with naloxone available, as well as information for vulnerable community members about where they can find helpful resources.

“Mona echoed this point, saying “We’re great at using data for reporting, but not bringing it together to target problems.”

 

Demo Alley

During breaks throughout the day, we gathered around computers to peek at our colleagues’ data triumphs. In this photo above, Debbie Volk, StPeteStat Coordinator for the city of St. Petersburg, shows off the city’s instance of Socrata Citizen Connect. It layers 311, police, and other quality of life data into an interactive map for citizens and executives.

 

Transportation and IoT

Thanks to connected vehicles, it’s possible to see real-time data for one of Wyoming’s interstate highways on data.transportation.gov. Why is that important? Weather changes fast there, and keeping truckers informed lets them know when to slow down, pull over, or other important safety tips.

 

All of this data — along with weather, soil, census, environmental, endangered species data — factor into the decisions made around the billions of dollars spent on transportation builds in the U.S., says Dan Morgan, CDO and acting CTO for USDOT. Dan also noted that the DOT made it a priority to share public metrics on data usage, so leadership and citizens can see how many people are visiting hub, getting API keys, and downloading datasets.

 

Watching Taxi & Rideshare Trends in NYC

Fausto Lopez, an analytics manager with NYC’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), shared some of the trends with yellow cabs and companies like Uber and Lyft in New York, including an increase in drivers working for multiple platforms and pickups in neighborhoods that were traditionally underserved by cabs. In response to an audience question about how taxi trends correlate to other public transportation trends in the city, Fausto said, “We have to think of ourselves as one functioning organism instead of each agency functioning on its own. If you can do that, you can create a powerful agency for change.”

Want to read more about the big happenings at Socrata Connect? Read our summary from the first day of event.