Data Storytelling in Cary

data storytelling in Cary, North Carolina

The Town of Cary, North Carolina, has launched a new data portal, powered by the OpenDataSoft Open Data solution. The announcement was made during this year’s Triangle Open Data Day, where community members across the region came together to celebrate Civic Tech, as part of the International Open Data Day taking place in cities across the world. The Town will especially use its portal to fuel its mission of data storytelling.

The project’s main goals are three-fold:

  • To release datasets of only the highest value
  • To use visualizations for engaging data storytelling
  • To work together with local community partners

A project rooted in community collaboration

The community has always been the driving force behind Open Data in Cary. As a recommendation of the Town’s Technology Task Force in 2012, Cary residents were the first to ask for Open Data.

More recently, the local Code for America Brigade began opening up some of the Town’s data, and launched several civic applications including:

  • Citygram for residents to subscribe to receive town alerts
  • WasteLine to inform residents of garbage and recycling pickup

Robert Campbell, a co-captain of the Town’s Code for America Brigade, was at the center of this partnership between the Town and the Community. By working with the town on demonstrating the power and the story-telling potential of Open Data, he said “we’ve mapped out development and rezoning to answer questions people have. The ease of use of the portal makes using the data useful for the residents by visually sharing information about a topic.”

The portal currently hosts 24 datasets covering topics such as:

The Town has no plans to contain its new full-fledged Open Data initiative within its own limits. Community collaboration, for Cary, also extends to the Triangle as a region.

“We have the blue book for building highways and streets,” explained Town Council Member, Lori Bush, to keep sidewalks the same across the region, for example. “We should have that same book when it comes to data.” This would mean a more standardized data format, leading to increased interoperability and more reuses of the region’s data.

It’s all about the data storytelling!

During Council Member Bush’s keynote speech at Triangle Open Data Day, a major theme and objective of the Open Data project became clear: the Town wants to use its data to better tell its story.

“We started talking about Open Data a long time ago. We were constantly asked, ‘what’s the value of an Open Data program’?” said Bush. The town found a way to respond to this question with the OpenDataSoft platform!

Cary Chief Information Officer Nicole Raimundo found in OpenDataSoft “a tool that really allowed us to realize that storytelling aspect. We can embed visualizations on the homepage, which is critical because that’s where most of our citizens are going to go.”

Sure enough, the platform truly showcases the Town’s data storytelling through a dedicated section on the portal’s homepage. As the winter draws to a close, Cary is currently highlighting its impressive snow removal record, a subject of great pride in this southeastern town:

data storytelling in Cary

The Data Stories section comes with a data visualization, accompanying text, and a link to associated datasets, giving a richer context and a clearer story to what the Town wants to communicate. While the feature stories may change, the town’s ability to build these visualizations from the datasets and easily embed them into Cary’s homepage will not. All it takes is a simple copy-paste of the visualization’s iframe, and the map or graph can be shared anywhere else on the web!

From conception to portal in no time!

Creating a portal that is a powerful storytelling base, serves as a platform to launch civic applications, and that acts as a hub for future Smart City projects can seem daunting. However, Janelle Bailey, the Town of Cary Business Analyst, noted “the local support team for OpenDataSoft was very responsive to our requests and sought opportunities to provide our team with additional education.” As a result, the portal was up and running in just two months time!

We are looking forward to some great stories to come!


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