Philadelphia surveys citizens to improve open data use

7th February 2020 Christopher Carey

Philadelphia’s Office of Innovation and Technology (OIT) is asking members of the public to highlight ways in which it can make its open data portal more accessible, understandable and comprehensive.

The PHL Open Data Survey is the city’s first comprehensive attempt at gathering information on the success of its community-run data portal, which was redesigned in 2015.

The office has said it will use the results of the survey, which is open till 6 March, to identify datasets that haven’t been released and to track the impact open data has had on the city.

Speaking to Cities Today, Kistine Carolan, programme manager at the city’s Office of Open Data and Digital Transformation said: “The main purpose of this is to find out how citizens are using the city’s open data so we can understand the value of sharing this information publicly. But we are also interested in hearing what data individuals would like to see in the future. It can be data from any department, whatever people would find most useful. There could be a dataset we haven’t considered before that we’ll hear about in the survey.”

The survey begins by asking participants whether they use the portal for work, play or community organising, as well as how often they’ve gone back to the portal in the last six months.

Contributors are also asked to list all of the software they use in conjunction with the datasets they access, and to explain the positive aspects of the portal and any obstacles they face when extracting or trying to make sense of data. Finally, participants are asked to submit recommendations for new datasets and to share some demographic information.

Henry (Hank) Garie, the city’s chief data officer, told Cities Today: “The open data programme has been quite active here for several years, and we have been releasing all sorts of data from the city—several hundred datasets over a period of years. And so the whole idea around this was to increase and enhance transparency and accountability.”

The Office of Innovation and Technology also wants feedback from city staff in order to see how they can tailor services to help officials in their day-to-day work.

Last year Philadelphia stepped up its innovation efforts by launching its SmartCityPHL roadmap, which was funded, in part, by a US$200,000 grant from the Knight Foundation.



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