Boston Seeks a More Tech-Savvy Audience With New Open Data Platform

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts Shutterstock

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

“We’re trying to establish a culture where the default for datasets is trying to make things open data,” said the city’s chief data officer.

Boston traded in its original Socrata-powered open data portal for a new OpenGov cloud-based platform, Analyze Boston, piloting the beta version just in time for Sunshine Week.

The old portal was solid in terms starting the city’s open data program, according to Boston Chief Data Officer Andrew Therriault, but the OpenGov Open Data will improve municipal workers’ internal access to datasets.

Therriault’s team also wants to improve user experience by wrapping basic open data with text and imagery for greater interactivity.

“We’re trying to establish a culture where the default for datasets is trying to make things open data,” Therriault said in an interview with Route Fifty.

Various departments, users and data owners provide their data to the city, which wants to accurately convey the work they’re doing while appealing to “data people”.

A data dictionary explaining where data came from and how it’s updated adds much-needed context for a host of reimagined datasets like rainfall data, which the Boston Water and Sewer Commission has publicized for years but is now being looked at from a resilience standpoint. Crossing that dataset with data on city buildings’ energy usage reveals patterns.

Improving government transparency with data dumps was, in many ways, the “first generation” of open data.

“What Boston and a lot of other cities realize is that’s not a sufficient condition for success,” said Mike Schanker, OpenGov’s marketing vice president. “If there isn’t adoption of data, it’s not a particularly successful initiative.”

Truly making cities more livable involves engaging civic hackers and ensuring the datasets that are out there are “useful, usable and used” both externally and internally—the “second generation” of open data, he added.

Researchers at institutions like the Boston University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Northeastern University are also being targeted by Analyze Boston. The city had two open data websites—the original portal and Boston Maps—that often duplicated data, leading to user confusion, but Analyze Boston offers a single point of access to geospatial and tabular data. A lookup tool on the main page allows for the searching and filtering of datasets.

(via data.boston.gov)

Under development since the end of 2016, Analyze Boston was beta released because the city feels it’s addressed all major issues with the platform and wants public feedback. There’s no official full release date yet, though Therriault is hoping for sometime in April.

OpenGov’s platform is open source, meaning that Therriault’s team can actively help develop it and add new features. The proprietary, rather than volume-based, approach will yield new options for visualizing data over time, rather than users having to take the data out and work with it elsewhere.

Software developers Boston reached out to made it clear they wanted the flexibility to use released data however they wanted.

The city of Boston is undoubtedly a big fish for Redwood City, California-based OpenGov to land out from under Seattle-based Socrata. The former plans to announce the onboarding of another major U.S. city later this week.

"Boston is a trendsetter as it ushers in the next generation of open data—making information usable and actually using it,” said OpenGov CEO Zac Bookman. “Analyze Boston is just the start, and we're excited to work with other leading governments in 2017."

Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

NEXT STORY: Cybersecurity Education Heads to the Cloud in Virginia

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.