Tuesday, January 28th, 2014 marked the second Open Data Town Hall and the first at the Upcounty 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 of 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.
Chief 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.
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.
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
- Property tax map
- MCPS data
- Projections to see impacts on the County
- How taxes are spent
- Cross department information
- 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
- 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
- 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!