dataMontgomery

Montgomery County Holds First Ever Food Data Jam!

May 31st and June 1st the Montgomery County Innovation Program held the Food Data Jam, part of the National Day of Civic Hacking. It was the first known event of its type in the county. The event drew professional developers, non-profit representatives, and many high school students to work on challenges related to the food system in Montgomery County. After presentations and remarks from County Executive Ike Leggett, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Superintendent Joshua Starr, County Council Vice President George Leventhal, and local farmer John Fendrick, the participants formed teams and began work. During these presentations the attendees enjoyed what was touted as the “eat like a student” portion of the event, with lunch being a burrito bar sponsored by MCPS.20140531_130132

The teams had about 24 hours to complete as much work as possible on their solution. The teams worked through the night and in the end focused on two of the three challenge areas: food recovery and tools for farmers. The skill levels on the teams varied greatly with some PhD students working with participants as young as the 6th grade. However, all demonstrated an impressive degree of commitment and creativity as they first sketched out and then began creating their solutions. All the teams were encouraged to utilize open data, especially the data available on dataMontgomery, as they developed their solutions. Participants also received a $500 credit from Google App Engine and $50 from Amazon Web Services just for participating to facilitate their work.

At dinner the teams took a break and received a presentation on food access and security in the County from Amanda Behrens, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future who has done a tremendous amount of work mapping food insecurity in the County. The teams asked questions and learned more about the subject matter to better inform their solution. Dinner was courtesy of the Montgomery County Innovation Program and was served by a local food truck that operates in the County. The teams then began work again, this time without a break until breakfast the next morning. Their work was monitored by the Chief Innovation Officer, who stayed with them through the night.20140531_160025

At 8:00am the teams took a moment to enjoy breakfast courtesy of one of our sponsors, Socrata. Socrata not only provided breakfast but provided pro bono technical support to our participants in the form of two very knowledgeable technical staff and a 24/7 support desk throughout the entire event. The breakfast speaker was Kim Robien of George Washington University and the Montgomery County Food Council who spoke on the importance of nutrition and the growing challenge of obesity in the U.S.

Teams then had only a few more hours to complete their project before lunch and final presentations. By this time the students had been working almost non-stop for 16 hours, most without sleep. Through the night they were powered by snacks courtesy of My Organic Market. By mid-morning four teams remained. Two were working on a mobile application for food recovery, one was working on an interactive website for County farmers, and a fourth team was developing a detailed concept for food recovery.20140531_150201

Teams broke for lunch before presentations. This time lunch was sponsored by the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development (DED), which appropriated supported a local pizza business. DED was a critical partner in planning the Food Data Jam. Not only did they provide lunch, but they also had staff on hand for a significant portion of the event and sponsored the 1st and 2nd prize awards. During the Food Data Jam a film crew was also on hand to capture the event. Students were interviewed in preparation for a video piece on the event. The event was also covered by the Gazette, WNEW, Channel 4 and Channel 9.

20140601_125245After lunch we declared “laptops down” and teams began their presentations. The teams were evaluated by three judges: Sarah Miller from DED, Jackie DeCarlo, Executive Director of Manna Food Center, and Tim Short, the MCPS teacher that helped plan the event. Teams were judged on their creativity, effort, and the feasibility of their application to address the challenge. In the end four teams were recognized for their projects. First prize went to Team ManaFeast who developed a mobile application for food recovery. Second place was Team Taragon Basil Dill who created an interactive website for farmers using farmer data pulled from the Montgomery County farm directory. Third place was Team Cerulean who also built a mobile application for food recovery and was able to integrate health inspection data from dataMontgomery. An honorable mention was given to Team Lucky 7 who developed a very creative presentation on what they felt should go into a food recovery mobile application.20140601_133905

Although the benefits of any hackathon go far beyond building apps, this hackathon actually produced some results that could be leveraged in the future. DED has reached out to the 2nd place team to further develop their farm directory website and the Community Food Rescue group (an initiative of Montgomery Count Health and Human Services and Manna Food Center) will be using the work started on food recovery applications. The organizer of the event, the Montgomery County Innovation Program would like to thank the sponsors (MCPS, Socrata, My Organic Market, Google, Amazon and DED) and our other planning partners and volunteers (Manna Food Center, Department of Technology Services, and Chris Wright). We look forward to seeing you at our next hackathon!

Second Open Data Town Hall Results

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014 marked the second Open Data Town Hall and the first at the Upcountydatatownhall5 Regional Services Center, hosted by the Montgomery County Innovation Program in collaboration with the Department of Technology Services. This town hall was set up in response to the success of the first Open Data Town Hall in November. A unique aspect about this town hall is that many Montgomery County Public Schools students were reached out to and participated in the town hall. Involving and educating the youth of the county in these events broadens the spectrum of data and increases their knowledge datatownhall13-225x300of open government. Montgomery County continues to be a national example in the realm of open data. Data that is “open” must be available to the public in a form that is machine-readable, searchable, analyzable, and permanent. Feedback and comments on the datasets are also necessary, along with requests for future datasets. Montgomery County has over 30 already available on dataMontgomery with many more on the way.

 

BfJfJeDCcAAJ2DE.jpg-largeChief Innovation Officer Dan Hoffman started off the evening with a brief overview of the Innovation Program: projects must be able to scale up and they must be experimental in nature. Leading up to the Town Hall, Dan Hoffman asked residents of Montgomery County to fill out a sheet with their Open Data ideas. Many people responded with ideas from bus GPS data to public school nutrition facts.

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Victoria Lewis from the Department of Technology Services presented second. She is the project manager for dataMontgomery, which went live at the end of 2012. She informed the audience that town halls such as these are important in order to receive feedback from the county about the types of data requested to add to the implementation plan. dataMontgomery is part of Open Montgomery, which consists of four pillars: dataMontgomery, accessMontgomery, engageMontgomery, and mobileMontgomery. First, dataMontgomery is the open data portal where datasets are published, readable, and requestable for the residents of Montgomery County. accessMontgomery allows direct access to important county information, such as through the non-emergency line MC311 or CountyStat. engageMontgomery is like a one-on-one conversation about open data, where county officials can post forums and answer questions about datasets, and residents can post their ideas. Lastly, mobileMontgomery is the mobile site on Montgomery County, so residents can view county information, such as library hours and RideOn schedules, on the go. Victoria Lewis confirmed that while over 30 datasets exist on dataMontgomery currently, many more remain to be published.

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Ewan Simpson from Socrata, a company specializing in open data, spoke next regarding the importance and benefits of open data portals. They allow data to be searchable, sortable, and consumable. This leads to an efficient open government and a strong citizen connection.

After the speakers, attendees prepared for the main event: the feedback session. Tables set up around the room labeled with a category of data each had a representative who took notes on residents’ suggestions and discussed ideas with them. Everyone traveled around the room from table to table, sharing their suggestions and ideas about additions to dataMontgomery. Representatives from Montgomery Community Media interviewed residents and asked what types of data they wanted to see.

Here is a breakdown of the results of the Second Open Data Town Hall:

Health, Housing, Social Services

  • Date on free emergency food, clothing, and shelter
  • A community map to filter options for types of services
  • Socioeconomic data
  • Map of a concentration of health issues or diseases in different areas
  • Where basic services are located
  • Food venues that fit health or dietary needs
  • After school activities chart
  • Real time updates on events in the County
  • Locating the most affordable housing communities and properties
  • Food and housing inspection grades

Finance/Budget

  • Property tax map
  • MCPS data
  • Projections to see impacts on the County
  • How taxes are spent
  • Cross department information

Public Safety

  • Crime reports in a data format
  • Incidents on a map, indicating calls to an area
  • Police and Fire Department response times
  • Collision data
  • Geographic data

Transportation

  • Pothole reports
  • Traffic directions

Elections, Libraries, Recreation

  • Recreational centers by zip code with names of facilities, types, and activities
  • Hours of centers
  • Searchable by date, time, and location
  • Pool schedules
  • Party venues and event information
  • Contextualized view of neighborhoods and zip codes

Miscellaneous

  • School financial data
  • Innovation project funding
  • Achievement gap data
  • Liquor store inventory
  • Public school test scores

The Innovation Program would like to thank all participants and volunteers for making the Upcounty Open Data Town Hall a success. We hope to continue to hear your open data suggestions and ideas. Please make your voice heard and suggest a data set today!

Photos courtesy of @MoCoDanHoffman, @SonyaNBurke, Montgomery Community Media via #opendataMC

 

 

Data + Action = Result

Next week is our second Open Data Town Hall at the Upcounty Regional Services Center. I hope you can make it out and give us your feedback on the type of data you’d like to see the county publish on dataMontgomery. This week and next I’d like to flex our social media muscle and hear from even more people about their open data priorities.

The usefulness of Open Data can be summed up in a simple equation: Data + Action = Result. When the right data (let’s say crime data) is added to an action (perhaps a mobile application that can give you alerts), the result can be very beneficial (like having a greater awareness of what is happening in your neighborhood). The possibilities are astounding. So how can you participate?

First off download and print this simple one-page sheet. Write the data you’d like to see the County publish and what you’d like to do with it. Then take a photo holding the sheet. Just like this, except try to be more photogenic than this guy.20140122_152953-e1390423476542-576x1024

Then tweet it or post to Facebook using the hashtag #opendataMC. That last part is very important, use the hashtag. If you’re using Facebook you can also share it on our Innovation Program Facebook page. We’ll be using every single tweet and Facebook mention as input to our open data prioritization. So get started and be creative. What catches your interest? Transit data, food data, economic data, permitting data. We estimate that there will be hundreds of datasets in our inventory and we need to know what’s most useful to you.

What does Open Data mean to you?

Leading up to our second Open Data Town Hall on January 28th, we want to know what open data means to you. What do you want us to publish on dataMontgomery? What could you do with the data? Here are a couple responses from our first town hall in November.

Let us know what you’d like published and please join us at our next Open Data Town Hall! Also, help us promote the event by sharing this Facebook invitation with your friends.

 

Open Data Town Hall Results

On Thursday, November 21st the Montgomery County Innovation Program hosted the first Open Data Town Hall at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center. The event was organized by the Innovation Program in collaboration with the Department of Technology Services and with the help of many County departments. We are pleased to say that the results are positive and representation from Montgomery County residents like you was impressive. Live-tweeting with the hashtag #opendataMC proved effective as well, and we heard from people all over the county with all different sorts of feedback. This was the first Open Data Town Hall event both in Montgomery County and possibly the first of its kind in the country, demonstrating our commitment to open data.

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Dan Hoffman, the Chief Innovation Officer, opened the event by welcoming attendees and first talking about the Innovation Program and what we have accomplished, including projects and a brief website tour. He said that the Innovation Program explored projects that are “testable, experimental, and risky,” reminding us that it is a place to explore new ideas and a safe place to fail. Then he explored what exactly open data is and how it can positively impact Montgomery County. Hoffman said that having an open data policy is the only way to ensure “an open, responsive, and transparent government.”

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Sonny Segal, the Chief Information Officer, then took the floor to state how this is the first year anniversary of the Open Data program, and it has already shown great success. It is designed so sectors other than the government can utilize the data, and contribute to the county where the government’s services leave off. He reminded us that the input of residents is vital because then portals such as dataMontgomery would be tailored to what the public wants to see and know about. This way, datasets can be prioritized and the implementation plan can be strategic.

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“Montgomery County is one of just 24 U.S. local governments with an open data policy,” said Rebecca Williams, a policy analyst at the Sunlight Foundation. “By engaging with residents and the public while implementing an open data policy, Montgomery County is exceeding the work being done by peers in Chicago and New York City in setting a prioritization schedule for the release of all the datasets maintained by the county.” With portals such as dataMontgomery, Montgomery County is ahead of the game.

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After the introductions, Dan Hoffman introduced the activity. Stations were set up around the room with a speaker and a large pad of paper with a different topic written on it. Residents were to move around the room for the next 45 minutes from station to station and discuss each topic and give ideas of datasets they would like to see pertaining to that topic. Meanwhile, interviews with citizens were conducted to get a more personalized view of their Open Data opinions and what they would like to see. Here is breakdown of the different groups and the ideas residents had:

Environment:

  • County building energy efficiency
  • Recycling rates in buildings
  • Tree canopy law information
  • Locations of resources
  • Invasive Plant Map
  • Green space data

Transportation:

  • Traffic flow information
  • Bus stop locations
  • Real-time service alerts
  • Toll road information

Public Safety:

  • Graphic data/maps
  • Crime incidents
  • Dangerous intersections (collision information)
  • Response times for Police and Fire Departments

Social Services:

  • County facilities located on maps
  • Services offered at facilities
  • Languages offered at facilities
  • Rates, transportation, hours at facilities
  • Mental health facilities mapped

Government Operations:

  • Open checkbook: spending, budget, project bids
  • Where the spending is goes and to whom it goes
  • Council vote tracking
  • Record requests (MPIA, FOIA)

Miscellaneous:  

  • School boundaries
  • Election data
  • Machine-readable format for SAT scores, including private schools

Looking towards the future, dataMontgomery is already seeing new requests for datasets the public would like to see. You can contribute there as well. We are already beginning to respond to the requests made by adding new datasets, so it is important that you know your advice will not go unheard. One example stemming directly from the Town Hall are election maps, which the County has begun posting already. Thank you to everyone who helped make this event a success, and we are already planning our second Open Data Town Hall for late January in upcounty.

Also, check out some great video coverage of the event here. There are also some great write-ups from MyMCMedia, BethesdaNow, and the Gazette.

Photos courtesy of Twitter: @MoCoDanHoffman, @CountyCableMoCo, and @ValerieBonk via #opendataMC.

Best Practices in Open Data

The September 9th worksession on the Office of Legislative Oversight (OLO) Report 2013-7: Best Practices in Open Data Initiatives reminded Montgomery County that we already excel in the field of open data, from dataMontgomery to positions such as the Chief Innovation Officer. According to the report, Montgomery County continues to excel by providing the following:

  • Datasets that the community will find useful may not always be obvious to the government;
  • Preparing and maintaining datasets for release on open data portals can require a significant investment of resources – recommending a cost/benefit analysis to examine whether the community is interested in certain datasets; and
  • Some jurisdictions provide opportunities for stakeholder feedback to help identify datasets for release.

Having an open data policy requires sharing data in an open format where the public can view it without needing to request it from the government.  It must be updated and usable by the public.  The public also needs to be able to discuss and comment on the datasets, as well as request those that they would like access to in the future. However, the datasets the public can make the best use of are not always those which are readily available for publication. For this reason, citizens can send requests to ask for a certain type of data release. Montgomery County has done an excellent job applying these best practices. Montgomery County uses a software called Socrata to publish open data at portal we call dataMontgomery.  dataMontgomery provides “direct access to County datasets in consumable formats” so the public can “review and analyze raw data, and use it for a variety of purposes.” Some of the most popular datasets on dataMontgomery are the county employee salaries, food inspection, and service requests. Other information available involves the public school system as well as polling/elections. Residents can provide feedback on datasets and other issues in the county, as well as request datasets for release.

This open format conforms to the best practices in open data in Montgomery County because anyone can view it, and we are currently trying to apply it to applications and software so it has a variety of uses. One of our innovation projects, the interactive touchscreen kiosks, seeks to provide information to residents and travelers in town centers and dense areas. The food truck catalyst pilot will also apply open data, courtesy of dataMontgomery, in order to boost food trucks throughout the county. These applications of open data prove that the policy is successful and necessary because otherwise, a request from the government would be required and the data would be neither publicly available nor easily accessible.

We continue to be successful in providing open data as well as a portal for the public to provide feedback on this data. We are planning an Open Data Town Hall in the near future. We’ll post information on the town hall as soon as it comes available.

 

Montgomery County’s Open Data Implementation

On September 9th, 2013, Montgomery County’s Government Operations (GO) committee held a work session to discuss the best practices in open data initiatives in Montgomery County.  Montgomery County’s open data policy involves providing the public a portal of open datasets for viewing.  Also discussed was how this data can be manipulated to benefit the three groups that usually seek out public data, which are residents, businesses, and software developers.  The program dataMontgomery releases these datasets, and it is important that they are useful to residents. These public datasets could be applied to current Innovation projects, such as the interactive touchscreen kiosk project, because they can provide data to residents or visitors on command.

The Office of Legislative Oversight (OLO) released a report on July 9th, 2013, regarding best practices in open data. Open data is “making information publicly and easily available to individuals without the need for a government request.” Montgomery County and many other local governments nationwide are adhering to this idea ever since President Obama released new policy initiatives and raised the standards. Government data should be publicly available and accessible, not only available upon request.

In order for the open data policy to be successful, the benefits need to outweigh the costs. Money, time, and effort are required to publish and maintain these datasets. Some current apps running in different cities throughout the country were discussed at the meeting. For example, in New York an app located the available wireless hotspots. In Chicago, an app maps available commercial properties.

The main intent of this session was to get the status of implementation of the open data initiative. Click here to read a summary of the September 9th meeting.