Delivering Services and Improving Efficiencies with Open Data


March 27, 2020 – As urban populations grow and smart city technology becomes more accessible, it is increasingly important for cities to use data to better serve their communities. Municipal governments are investing in data resources, creating open data policies and sharing the results information with their constituents like never before. 

Why do cities open their data?

At the core of open data you’ll find transparency and citizen engagement; things we like to think of as the foundations of smart cities. The more willing a city is to share information and insights with its citizens, the more valuable a smart city project will be. We all know that smart cities involved technology and digital infrastructure, but how a city shares the outcomes driven by technology is what truly makes that city “smart”.

What are the use cases and outcomes that cities hope to achieve by liberating their data?

This depends completely on the city’s history and objectives. For example, Bristol, Connecticut is has an industrial legacy with serious air quality problems - every year the city face air quality related fatalities Now, Improving regional air quality in a city is no small task, in fact it’s a very challenging feat. But there was one thing city officials could do to make immediate impact: data sharing.  The city installed air quality sensors throughout the town and is sharing air quality information with its citizens so they can make informed decisions about when to be active and when to stay inside.

Meanwhile, Cary, North Carolina, is sharing data on crimes and fires with its citizens. In North Carolina State, the government is working on a goal to attract families and businesses and they use a data portal to promote all of the favorable statistics the state has to offer: low taxes, short commutes and median salaries among in the country. 

These governments are buying into the idea that data-driven approaches foster economic development by attracting new businesses and residences. Transparency and sharing data instills trust from citizens by proving cities are making progress in the areas they care about. It also opens challenges to a new set of problem solvers: open data sets can be manipulated and analyzed by any interested party who might find previously unseen problems or discover solutions that city officials don’t have the capacity or skillset to identify.  

Who’s involved in making an open data approach work?

Short Answer: everyone. But to break it down:

  • City managers or elected officials will ultimately decide whether or not to open city data sets to the world and decide how much or how little to share.

  • IT will build or buy (and eventually manage) the tools that make it all work.

  • All Stakeholders will consume the data (hopefully). The value from open data comes from people using that data to make greater impact, deeper insights and ultimately improve efficiencies across the city.

OK, this sounds likes a great project for a big city, but what about the rest of us?

Launching an open data program is easier than you might think.  Plug and play platforms on the market today make it easy for a city to develop an open data program and easy for end users to consume the newly available data. If you want to learn more about this type of how open data platforms can transform a city, watch our webinar with expert Franck Carassus, from our friends at Open Data Soft.