The release of city data is undeniably important. But if you don’t know how to work with the data, it probably doesn’t mean much to you.
Well, the City of Philadelphia just launched a tool that aims to change that.
It’ll make data more accessible to those without technical know-how by providing visualizations and search functions for the city’s data sets. For example, the city just released parking ticket data, and thanks to this new tool, you can see it organized by zip code on a map, you can search by license plate number and you can see who issued the most tickets (the Philadelphia Parking Authority, by a long shot).
This visualization page is only available for the parking ticket data right now but the city plans to roll it out for other data sets, said data services manager Stacey Mosley.
The tool is powered by Seattle-based govtech company Socrata. Socrata will host the city’s data instead of GitHub (though the city will still use GitHub for its open source projects and engaging with the developer community, said Chief Data Officer Tim Wisniewski). Socrata comes with other perks, too, like automatic updates to data sets and a way to download data in many formats (for example, CSV and geo-coded data). The city is paying $30,000 per year for the service, Wisniewski said. Wisniewski says the city will still maintain its commitment to OpenDataPhilly, an open data catalog maintained by a number of local partners.
The city’s use of Socrata feels like another part in Wisniewski’s plan to make open data accessible to more than just the civic hacking and technologist set, while still catering to the technologists, inside and outside city government, who are the most active users of city data.-30-