Socrata Introduces the Open Data Network™

July 15, 2014 3:00 am PST | Open Data
Open Data Network

Twenty years ago, if you wanted to send a message to your brother who lives in another state, you’d reach for stamps and an envelope. Ten years ago, you just had to remember his email address. Now? You simply log on to Facebook. Social networking sites like Facebook began to trump email because it became simpler to be social online. Government data is following a similar evolution. We have evolved from difficult to access, library-style catalogs of public information to simple apps fueled by open data, and we are at the precipice of a new frontier. Today, Socrata is excited to announce the launch of the Open Data Network™, which will unleash the full potential of open data and help drive sustained prosperity in connected communities all over the world.

The Open Data Network™ brings together a vast ecosystem of participants, including governments that are open data publishers and consumers of open data; businesses that incorporate and use government data; civic developers and entrepreneurs who build open data service delivery apps; and the citizens who benefit from open data. The Open Data Network™ will take a standards-based, industry-specific approach that will streamline access to sharable, comparable, interoperable, and measurable data.

For the first industry approach, the Open Data Network™ is pioneering the network effects of housing and real estate data with a diverse set of launch members.  Zillow®, the leading real estate marketplace on mobile and the Web, will be Socrata’s charter partner for the Open Data Network™. Other housing and real estate inaugural partners include SiteCompli, Civic Insight, Appallicious, BasicGov, Ontodia, DRiVEdecisions, and Buildingeye. Three of Socrata’s customers – the cities of San Francisco, Dallas, and Kansas City, Missouri – will be the first government organizations to participate in the Open Data Network, contributing data specific to the housing and real estate industry to our launch site, www.opendatanetwork.com.  

How will the network effects actually work? To best understand, look at the cycle in action:

  • Governments accumulate data in the course of delivering services to citizens.
  • Governments liberate the data on portals like the ones from San Francisco, Dallas, and Kansas City (MO).
  • Innovative people and companies, like Zillow, consume data and transform the raw resources into products and services of real value.
  • People use these tools to do things like shop for their next home.
  • Governments, businesses, and individuals accomplish their goals, which in the housing sector means living in safe and healthy homes.

In order to make the best housing decision possible, people research whether there is an unsafe or unhealthy history for a property. Government typically has this information available, but it is not always easy to access. To help citizens find the information they need, quickly, a number of data innovators created something to help solve this problem.

The HouseFacts data standard is an initiative, led by the San Francisco Department of Public Health and in collaboration from industry, to help put the right housing facts in the hands of the people that need it. With HouseFacts data, users can find information like whether a home has a history of asbestos, rodent infestations, or even abusive landlords. And because the information at HouseFacts is uniformly formatted, companies can more easily consume the data and render it in popular tools. This transition step through a third-party is increasingly the best way for governments to take their valuable data and empower their citizens.

On a local scale, Civic Insight, a start-up springing out of Code for America, is working in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity and the City of Dallas to help residents, City staff, and local organizations make sense of how the built environment in Dallas is changing over time, by visualizing code enforcement, building permit, and crime data citywide in an intuitive web and mobile interface. As a part of this initiative, Dallas will be one of the first US cities to publish their code enforcement data in compliance with the HouseFacts data standard, a testament to CIO Bill Finch’s innovative leadership.

Appallicious is utilizing open data from cities, counties, and federal agencies to build products that provide governments, citizens, and nonprofits metrics to improve underserved populations. By giving citizens better access to information about housing and the conditions of their neighborhoods, governments allow citizens to make more informed choices about where they want to live.  Likewise, governments can make more educated decisions on how to allocate resources to improve a particular neighborhood.

The future of open data will increasingly trend towards industry-specific, standards-based network effects, and will ultimately move to connected networks.  Similar to social networks like Facebook, as more governments join the Open Data Network and share their data, and as more businesses, App developers, entrepreneurs and eventually citizens participate in the network, the more valuable the data becomes.  With 150 governments working together with Socrata today, there is a powerful foundation to build upon.


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