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California Department of Public Health Soft Launches Open Data Portal

The department expects to integrate data from multiple departments as the portal develops.

On Wednesday, July 23, the California Department of Public Health initiated a soft launch of its open data portal, which is expected to be officially released next month with service-oriented and high-demand data sets.

“The first sets of data tables to be launched include birth profiles, popular baby names, poverty rates, West Nile virus surveillance data, the location of vendors who accept vouchers from the Women, Infants and Children program (WIC), and more,” the CDPH wrote in an email to Government Technology magazine.

Outlining its future plans, the CDPH said eventually the portal would serve multiple departments within California’s Health and Human Services agency.

“The big word of the evening is ‘soft launch,’" said Code for Sacramento founder Ash Roughani. “What CDPH is trying to do is essentially stress test what they’ve rolled out so far. They’ve contracted with Socrata for their open data portal and they’ve worked closely with the local [Sacramento] civic hacking community to see how to best launch the portal.”

As the local chapter of the civic hacking group Code for America, Roughani said Code for Sacramento was invited to provide early feedback on the site before the official launch, roughly slated for August 8. Key components of the portal to inspect, he said, will be the advanced programming interface (API) --  the system that allows developers to manipulate the data -- and the data’s various format types and structure.

“Most importantly, the CDPH is going to have data stewards on hand to really tell the story behind the data," Roughani said. "So as civic technologists, we can think about opportunities to improve the health of Californians through these data sets."

Jason Shueh is a former staff writer for Government Technology magazine.