As has been noted on this blog before, making data available in formats that are easily consumable is an important piece of the larger open data project. Serving up data that can be incorporated into projects quickly and easily not only helps citizenry better understand our world, but provides a connection to government at all levels.
But open data doesn’t end there. If we are to release with intent, we should consider the consumers of our data the way software developers consider their end-users. What will be done with the data once consumed? How will it be queried? How will it be organized? These questions guide our releases, but perhaps more importantly highlight the need for continual dialogue in providing data that better suits the consumer’s needs.
In answering questions of organization, one of the most effective ways to group large datasets is by spatial boundary. While the lines by which we organize data spatially can often be somewhat subjective, from an administrative standpoint, boundaries have clear significance that can be felt. From collecting taxes, to assigning policing responsibilities, to funding schools, boundaries matter because we as a society say they do.
Currently, we have a number of geographic boundaries available for public use, including our most recent release of the 2012 State House, State Senatorial, and U.S. Congressional Districts, clipped to the Philadelphia city limits. These services can be mashed up with other geographic data to produce new insights about our city and neighborhoods. From mapping parks by congressional district, to counting healthy corner stores by census tract, the number of projects these services can support is endless. So visit phila.gov/map, select your region, and start mapping some data!
Think of something you want to build but can’t find data anywhere? Maybe we’re already working on it, but if not visit opendataphilly and nominate a dataset. A future release could be closer than you think.