Data.NOLA.Gov: Opening Up City Data To Locals

One of the cities many initiatives has been trying to get its data organized, cataloged, and made public in a format that citizens can use. This data can be anything from housing blight to government spending. Many cities have adopted a more data-driven philosophy for trying to figure out how to better communicate with citizens. The White House even open sourced Data.gov as their new open government data platform to show things such as real-time disclosure of campaign contributions, the country’s budget priorities, or using maps and data points to show the progress of major construction projects.

From a more local perspective, the city’s Innovation & Information Technology department understands how important public data sets can be and quietly released a new website called Data.NOLA.gov. Data.NOLA.gov is a catalog of data sets once stored on computers and servers in city hall now made public for citizens.

Why Is This Data Important?

Let’s pretend for a second that you are a baker. Your baking has always come from things you’ve learned, but nothing ever documented. One day, you find a box of old family baking recipes. Not only will they be helpful to you, but the recipes also afford you the opportunity to venture into creating a website and putting those recipes online. Others can use this public information to create software programs, mobile apps, or rich web apps all using this data. In a sense, this is what public data sets from the city can do for New Orleans.

Frequently asked questions by many citizens are, “How can I search the crime stats in my neighborhood?” “Is there map with houses that are up for foreclosure?” or “Where can I get New Orleans census data?” Based off of these questions, the city is continuously working to get this type of information cataloged and put on their website in hopes that it’ll be useful for others and allow developers to create apps using this data.

Data NOLA Gov

Features Of The Website

The website is powered by Socrata—developer and provider of Open Data Services—which is cloud-based solution that governments can use for their public information assets. Data.NOLA.gov gives you the option to search or browse through a variety of datasets. The different types include charts, maps, calendars, form, files/docs, datasets, and external datasets. If you cannot find the data you’re looking for, or have an idea of what should be on the site, you can even suggest a dataset. Some of the most popular data are a listing of the city’s commercial and residential addresses, the Office of Performance & Accountability meeting calendar, post-Katrina damage assessment, code lien foreclosure maps, and 2010 census data. The datasets even have a social networking aspect to them, allowing people to discuss, embed, or visualize the data.

Hopefully, citizens will be able to find more useful information as new datasets are added onto the website. Developers should also be able to use the Socrata platform to build mobile apps or web apps based on the city’s data.