Streamline Solutions used to drive around neighborhoods to find run-down houses to rehab. But last July, the South Philly development company realized the city had released reams of data on property violations, like which homes had broken windows or rodent infestation or were in danger of collapse.
Why not use that data to find houses to rehab?
The company hired a software developer to build a tool for them that used the city’s Licenses and Inspections API, which offered a real-time feed of data about property violations.
Since then, Streamline has identified about 100 properties each month that it hopes to purchase and fix up, said Dhanraj “Danny” Phagoo, the Streamline staffer who led the project to use the city’s data. Identifying the properties is one thing, but finding the owners and purchasing the property is another. Streamine has been able to purchase between two to five properties that it found through L&I data per month, Phagoo said.
Still, the city’s open data has been important to Streamline’s business.
It’s helpful in getting “a bird’s eye view of development in the city,” Phagoo said.
It’s just one way businesses can use the city’s data to find customers — and it’s something the City of Philadelphia encourages. During Philly Tech Week 2014, city staffers, led by Office of Innovation and Technology data scientist Stacey Mosley, held an event at West Philly’s Enterprise Center to explain how business owners can use open data to their advantage. One business owner, who specializes in repairing windows of historical properties, was able to target that exact demographic (broken windows, historical properties) by using the city’s data, Mosley said.
The city encouraging business to use open data reminds us of something former Chief Data Officer Mark Headd wrote recently: “One of the most important things an open data directive can accomplish – whether it takes the form of an informal policy, an executive order or an open data statute – is to help create a set of incentives that can foster a ‘data culture’ inside government.”