04 Dec New Orleans Leads in Open Data Platform Revolution

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“Data in the hands of a few data experts can be powerful but data at the fingertips of many is truly transformational.”Forbes

New Orleans is known for many things. We’ve mastered our more traditional claims to fame such as Mardi Gras, jazz and gumbo, but we also lead in less traditional, more technologically advanced ways. For instance, did you know the City of New Orleans is a nationally recognized leader in open data platforms (ODPs?)

Read more about open data from economic competitiveness manager, Katy Dupre:

Data experts leading the city’s Office of Performance and Accountability and IT & Innovation departments have won countless awards for their dedication to improving transparency, accountability, and efficiency processes. Because of their work, various public, private and NGOs have leveraged this platform to create products helping support, connect, and inform our residents and businesses of pertinent information.

So, what exactly is open data? In short, “open data can be freely used, shared and built on by anyone, anywhere, for any purpose.” Open data allow for a wider audience to decipher what is happening and where it’s happening. ODPs are innovative opportunities to leverage technology and encourage creative applications which connect a broader community of users to the world of data. At this point, however, it’s important to clarify that understanding what is going on is very different from understanding why it’s happening and how we change it.

First of all, ODPs are necessary if we want more people to have access to the “what.” Secondly, skilled data professionals with a high level of data literacy are required to fully understand the “why.” Most importantly, leadership needs to be committed to data driven decision making in order for us to understand how we create change. If we want to see real progress, we have to accept what is happening and why it’s happening, before creating programs on how we change it.

In January 2018, NOLABA will release an interactive mapping tool created using our ODP and other publicly available data sets from the U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). The New Orleans Business Insight Tool (NOLA BIT) puts data in the hands of local communities. From economic and development indicators to standard demographics, the NOLA BIT has the potential to transform decision making throughout the city of New Orleans. If we view our city from a high level vantage point, we can have a more well-rounded understanding of how our city functions. The tool leverages our city’s ODP to help us better understand what our city looks like and where things are happening. It’s our attempt to put the information in the hands of many in order to transform our economic and community development opportunities.

open data

Katy Dupre (far right), NOLABA Manager of Economic Competitiveness, leads a discussion about open data at Blue House Nov. 30, 2017.

As the primary architect of this product, my intention is to put the power of data into the hands of more New Orleanians. Our world will continue to evolve at rapid rates, and innovative web-based tools like this can help prepare, protect and empower locals with an honest landscape of what our city looks like. We have to increase awareness of our challenges, as well as our opportunities that exist across our city. When more residents understand where the challenges and opportunities are, we are more likely to achieve equitable and inclusive growth.

While New Orleans is a leading city in the open data platform revolution, there is still much to be done to improve the reliability, validity and usefulness of the information we collect and make publicly available on our existing groundbreaking platform.

As we all know, with great power comes great responsibility. ODPs are just one step in making cities great. Big Data are also transforming places into Smart Cities. Here are a few challenges associated with data driven decision making which need more consideration:

NOLABA strongly supports our city’s efforts to improve transparency and accountability through innovative technological advancements like our open data portal. We encourage users to engage with the portal and create web applications to help New Orleans grow. Check out BlightStatus and The Big Easy Budget Game as examples. The power of data is real – use it wisely.

Follow NOLABA on social media for exclusive updates on our organization’s journey to advance data access and data literacy for more New Orleanians. To learn more about Big Data and Smart Cities, New Orleans-based data products and additional free data tools, click here.