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Why US Local Governments Should Choose Opendatasoft for their Project

Read this blog post to find out about some of the Opendatasoft platform’s main features and how they can help you reach your data sharing objectives.

Lora Botev
Marketing, Opendatasoft
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If you work for a local, federal or state agency, it is likely that you already share data internally or externally with your residents, in one way or another. If this is not yet the case, you are probably scratching your head as to which data sharing solution to go for. And you’re right – the options are numerous and it is not always easy to understand what differentiates one solution from another.

As a public sector organization, you probably deal with a large variety of data. This data may refer to the public infrastructure or the transport system in your area. It could also give useful insights regarding education, permits or crime rates for your residents. All of these data points are likely to come from a number of sources and in different formats, leaving you to wonder how you could possibly bring them all together in one single place.

The Opendatasoft platform is an excellent tool for organizations looking to make their data easily accessible and relevant to their local ecosystem. The platform is able to aggregate data coming from multiple sources and information systems, such as internal applications used within your organization or IoT devices. And from the second you upload your data to the platform until the moment your users access or download it, you can manage every single stage of the data sharing process with the Opendatasoft solution. It allows you to use a single platform to collect, prepare, gather, publish, visualize, analyze and share your data.

Example: Chapel Hill’s Data Portal

The town of Chapel Hill, located in North Carolina’s Research Triangle, launched its own open data portal in 2016. Chapel Hill chose the Opendatasoft platform to create and manage its portal.

The town management was looking for a tool to help better engage with residents by publishing reliable data. Chapel Hill’s portal is managed by the local Public Library, which deals with a huge variety of public data from which residents can benefit. Working with Opendatasoft, the town centralized all of its static and real-time data in one hub. Now, each resident can access the information that they feel is most relevant to them. “We do this because data-driven decisions are better-informed decisions. And, frankly, it’s the right thing to do”, shared David Green, the Library Systems Manager for the town of Chapel Hill.

Governments usually embark on a data sharing initiative with the aim to give residents greater insight into government decisions. They also hope to increase levels of accountability by sharing information regarding public services and infrastructure. This is why it is important to choose a data sharing solution that is able to communicate information effectively, not only by listing figures but by telling your data’s story in the best possible way.

Opendatasoft offers a cloud-based portal and a user-friendly interface that is accessible to all, regardless of technical knowledge or background. Three functionalities set this solution apart – its intuitive data visualization tools, the possibility to share the information in different languages, and its ability to transform any data into standard APIs. Opendatasoft empowers organizations that seek to collect data which can lead to interesting reuses to improve local economies and inspire the communities they serve.

Example: Salinas’ Data Stories

The City of Salinas designated six color-coded areas, divided into Economic Development, Safety, Planning and Community Engagement, Transportation and Infrastructure, Quality of Life and High Performance Government. The sections steer visitors to their interest areas where they can quickly find data about each topic. To increase the impact of the information it shares, Salinas tells its data’s story by creating its own content pages, dashboards and visualizations, all thanks to the platform’s integrated publishing tools.

With the Opendatasoft platform, it is easy to configure a multilingual version for each dataset in your catalog. The City of Salinas’ open data portal features its data-driven stories in both English and Spanish, underscoring the city’s emphasis on opening data to as many citizens as possible.

But the value of such data would amount to little more than mere figures if it is not supported by strong API capabilities. APIs are crucial in allowing developers to capture data from your open data portal in real time and create applications that will improve your ecosystem. Data is most valuable when third parties can access it in a “plug and play” format. APIs allow users to build new applications that rely on continuously updating datasets without having to constantly renew the connection or code.

As a city operator or manager at a public sector organization, you regularly communicate with a number of different stakeholders. The type of data and the way you share it differs according to whether you are dealing with the general public, partners, or colleagues. Opendatasoft allows easy data access for all types of end users.

Example: North Carolina’s OSBM Opens its Data to Stakeholders

The North Carolina Office of State Budget and Management (OSBM) launched a data sharing portal with Opendatasoft so that city management and local entrepreneurs can search, explore, link, download, visualize and reuse the data for commercial or non-commercial purposes through a catalog of common metadata. The open data catalog is accessible to all and is used by a wide range of groups, from grade schools to government employees. OSBM estimates that about 70-80% of users are from the business community and state and local government.

At the same time, you may need to manage the data access of your various user groups so that they can only access the information that really matters to them. Opendatasoft gives publishers the ability to share data with colleagues, contractors or stakeholders without exposing the dataset to the entire internet. For instance, if you are looking to share an internal strategic dataset with your team, you may want to create customized access only for the involved users. Staff will no longer need to go through the IT team to get the access they need but instead can access securely the dataset you share with them directly on the portal. The information they can access will be strictly limited and defined by their needs, accessible in an easily comprehensible format. For more information on how to manage access to your data and why it is important, read our blog post on data governance.

Your open data portal should reflect the identity of your town, city, or organization. The Opendatasoft platform’s open source front end allows you to fully customize your data portal’s appearance, from your catalog icons to your graph’s color palettes. You can edit each page by reusing templates designed by the Opendatasoft team or tailoring their HTML and CSS codes. The City of Salinas, the town of Chapel Hill, and the North Carolina Office of State Budget and Management (OSBM) all partnered with Opendatasoft to build their open data portals. Yet, each portal has a completely different look and feel, in keeping with each organization’s brand identity. Different organizations will have different data sharing priorities and Opendatasoft will help you best communicate yours by giving you the flexibility to design your portal according your specific needs.

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