Code for DC goes to Open Data Day

by Leah Libresco
20 Feb 2014

This weekend is Open Data Day DC! Hackers, statisticians, writers, and other collaborators will be gathering at the World Bank on February 22nd and 23rd to learn about open data and use it to build visualizations, apps, and other resources.

A number of Code for DCers will be in attendance with their projects and need your help! We asked a few of them to talk about how open data makes their work possible.

Open Schools uses open data to help DC parents make better decisions about their children's schooling. Their app for sorting schools depends on data provided by the Office of the State Superintendent for Education (OSSE), which provides data about public and charter school test scores, demographics, commutes, and more.

At Open Data Day they'll be pouring through some new datasets about to be released by OSSE. They would love to have people dive into that data, organize and catalog it, put it up on the Open Data DC data catalog, and create some analyses and visualizations. They're also looking for Javascript developers, R programmers, and domain experts to help them get ready for launch.

On Saturday, Open Schools will also be hosting a short walkthough of the DC education data scene: who the players are, what the big issues are, where data comes from, where it lives, what you need to know to make sense of it. Think of it as a crash course for people who want to get involved, but don't know where to start.

The ANC Finder helps DC residents connect to DC's government at the hyperlocal level. Their website helps you keep track of your Advisory Neighborhood Commission, and how the decisions it's making affect you. They'll be in attendance Open Data Day, building out their website and prepping outreach to commissioners and their constituents.

The ANC Finder uses DC government open data sources to relay the results of Advisory Neighborhood Committee elections, the names and locations of several types of business license holders, and GIS data on the boundaries DC's ANCs and Single Member Districts.

But they still have a lot of items on their open data wishlist and hope to see DC build central repositories for ANC meeting minutes, reports, and financial statements. An official repository makes it easier for the ANC Finder to make information searchable and accessible, and lightens the load on ANC commissioners, so those volunteers don't need to take the initiative to build dozens of separate resources.

When open data didn't turn up fast enough, the Heart Spark project turned to crowdsourcing to compile a list of Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) locations. When someone has a heart attack, every second matters, so it would be a big help to be able to quickly look up the closest AED.

Heart Spark started in Ottawa, when that city released its AED locations as open data, but since FOIA requests haven't turned up similar resources for DC, Heart Spark is relying on users to build up their database by tagging AEDs and scoring points for locating a new one. Find this project at Open Data Day if you'd like to help save lives by testing the site or helping with its design.

And, if you'd like to be better prepared to help on any of these projects, Code for DC Co-Captain Leah Bannon will be giving an introduction to Github. Github is a tool to help programmers collaborate openly, and most Code for DC projects are put together using this tool. Open Data Day is about connecting citizens with the information they need, so come to Leah's class if you want to learn how to connect to your fellow bridge builders.

Whatever project you work on this weekend, we hope you'll come say hello and swing by the next Code for DC meetup (Tuesday, March 4th) to keep the spirit of Open Data Day going.

Registration for Open Data Day DC is full, but you can still join an Arlington hackathon run by sister organization Code for NoVA this weekend to join up with another open data project.