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The Motor City is the first recipient of a technical grant that will help unlock its data, which is now available through a newly unveiled portal.
Last year, cyberattackers targeting Detroit’s city government took control of a municipal database and wouldn't unlock it until the city paid a 2,000 Bitcoin ransom, worth approximately $800,000 at the time.
While Mayor Mike Duggan disclosed that the city was being held for ransom, he noted that the database wasn’t important and that the city had refused to pay the ransom. Although the cyberattack had limited impact, it highlighted some of the ongoing troubles the financially beleaguered city was facing when it came to its digital infrastructure.
How could a cash-strapped city emerging from bankruptcy with so many other needs and priorities move forward on digital projects?
On Thursday, Detroit received some good news on that front.
Seattle-based Socrata, a privately held software company that helps public-sector organizations improve transparency, public services and data-driven decisionmaking, announced the formation of the Socrata Foundation and that Detroit would receive its first technical grant to help unlock the city’s information and make it more accessible to the public.
It’s all part of the effort to “expand on the company’s mission to unleash the power of open data to improve the world,” according to Socrata’s announcement.
“Detroit knew that the transparency, accountability and fact-based decision-making that stem from open data was the absolute right thing for its citizens, but buying technology just didn’t seem fiscally responsible, given where the city has been financially,” Socrata founder and CEO Kevin Merritt said in a statement.
In the case of Detroit, Socrata has made its open data platforms available to the city, which has launched an open data portal at data.detroitmi.gov.
“Providing access to information is one of the most important things we can do to keep the public’s trust and establish a sense of accountability within city government,” Duggan said in a statement. “Today is an important first step in that direction and one we will continue to build on as more information is added to this new website.”
More than 75 datasets are now publicly available through the portal, involving nine city agencies. Information involving police reports, blight remediation, building and trade permitting, land bank sales and building demolitions is available.
For the Socrata Foundation, there are three types of open data projects it will get involved with, according to its announcement:
- Those that create new opportunities for underserved communities and regions around the world
- Those that represent compelling social ROI but are constrained by economic forces beyond the control of stakeholders
- And those that offer the potential to advance open data science and research
“There are so many worthwhile organizations that are truly data-driven at heart,” Merritt said in Socrata’s announcement, “and they want to use open data to positively impact and improve the quality of life for millions of people on just about every continent. . . . We believe that the innovative use of open data can remove a number of barriers standing in the way of social justice and economic progress.”
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