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Philadelphia Launches Open Data Tool for Residents, Others

This week, the city of Philadelphia released its Open Data Dashboard, a platform that displays recently published data sets to increase transparency and to serve as a resource for other organizations.

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The city of Philadelphia has officially released its Open Data Dashboard, an interactive platform that will make a variety of data available to constituents and serve as a resource for organizations outside of the city.

Many other cities, including the likes of Baltimore and Buffalo, N.Y. , have increased their use of open data to help improve transparency and build trust with constituents. In Philadelphia’s case, the Office of Innovation and Technology led this work as part of a larger effort to make evidence-based decisions.

Data sets on the platform vary including information about building licenses and demolitions, COVID-19 vaccinations in relation to census tracts, and farmers market locations. Some of the available data sets go back to 1996.

The dashboard, unveiled on Nov. 16, is built on a platform created by Esri, a company with which the city had an existing enterprise account.

The portal was developed to deliver on the feedback received through the 2020 PHL Open Data Survey, which utilized responses from city workers, students, urban planners and more.

The survey results made it evident that users were looking for up-to-date data that used visualizations to improve clarity, according to Kistine Carolan, the city’s Open Data Program manager.

“The main impetus of open data, in general, is government transparency,” she said.

The city is still working to automate the process of adding new data sets to the dashboard, and once that is complete, new information will be added to the dashboard on a regular basis — with the potential to do so monthly or even daily.

The user experience was a key component of reaching that goal, because as Carolan explained, the availability of data does not necessarily equate to the accessibility of that data. The city worked to make the dashboard user-friendly and engaging for a wider audience by using descriptive labels, visualizations and information on what data sets are soon to be added.

Carolan underlined the importance of digital standards created by the city’s digital transformation and software engineering teams.

Listening to the public response will help the city assess which data sets constituents want to use, and why, ultimately helping the city make decisions about which projects to prioritize.

The other purpose for this dashboard is to be a resource for organizations outside of the city. Carolan stated that the city has found data highlighting 600,000 unique users of the city’s open data, some of which are in other countries.

While the city does not always receive feedback on how that information is used, Carolan said that the city has received insight that researchers and businesses are leveraging Philadelphia’s open data to help inform their own decision-making.

Editor's note: This article was adjusted from its original form for clarity and accuracy.
Julia Edinger is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Toledo and has since worked in publishing and media. She's currently located in Southern California.
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