High value data: Our recommendations to the mayor

by Josh Tauberer
14 Oct 2014

On July 21, 2014 the Mayor issued a Transparency, Open Government and Open Data Directive. The order directed the City Administrator and each Deputy Mayor to identify at least three new high-value datasets by November 18, 2014 to publish to the District’s data catalog. Code for DC has identified the following datasets that are of high value to our ongoing projects and we urge the City Administrator and Deputy Mayors to include these among their lists of high value datasets.

Some of these datasets were first brought to the Mayor’s attention in Code for DC’s December 13, 2013 response to the Mayor’s request for input on the District’s transparency and open government initiative.

For the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice

Emergency Response Times

On March 7, 2014 our emergency response times project members sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the Office of Unified Communications for computer aided dispatch data. This data is important for understanding whether police and fire emergency responses are timely and whether District resources are distributed equitably among residents. After six months we still have not received the requested data.

Handgun Registrations

WAMU and Code for DC used handgun registrations from 2008-2014 provided by MPD to map per capita handgun counts ahead of a Council debate on new gun carry rules. See WAMU's article for additional information on this project.

For the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services

2-1-1 Social Services Directory

DC’s 211/Answer’s Please! service is an essential operating system that can refer DC residents to both public agencies and community organizations. Yet, beyond the 2-1-1 calling center and online database, there are many other potential uses for this data. For example, organizations like Bread for the City have intake and case management systems that could directly retrieve and deliver this data to people in a trusted community context. This is just one example from a whole ecosystem of institutions and applications that could make use of standardized, machine-readable service directory data.

For the Deputy Mayor for Education

District Schools Enrollment and Related Data

Our members are developing applications to help District parents make more informed decisions about school choice. Aggregate data on the student population of each District school, especially home neighborhood and attrition rates, would be of enormous value to District parents. Our work also depends on OSSE equity reports, student commute information, school boundaries, and school feeder patterns. See http://edu.codefordc.org/ for more information on this project.

For the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development

Land Use

Our members also work on projects related to land use, including vacant lots, the locations of community gardens, and neighborhood boundaries. We urge data about these aspects of District life to be considered high-value.

For the City Administrator

District Budget

Our members are expanding access to information on District spending. More and better data on contracts and procurement, the District budget, and budget utilization can help the public — especially journalists — fulfill the important role of keeping government accountable. Our finances team would be glad to work with the Mayor’s office on identifying particular data items. For an example of our work on improving access to the District’s budget, see http://drewbo.com/dc-budget-treemap/.

For the Mayor

The following datasets appear to fall outside of the jurisdiction of the City Administrator and Deputy Mayors. We nevertheless urge the Mayor to identify the following datasets as being of high value.

Campaign Finance Records

The campaign finance records currently made available by the Office of Campaign Finance are lacking in a number of ways. The records do not link candidates to election year, office, or campaign committee, making substantive analysis of the records difficult. These records should be made available in a structured data format.

Advisory Neighborhood Commission Documents

Some of our team members are building tools to help citizens engage with the ANC system and to help ANC commissioners reach their constituents. Improved reporting requirements, a data feed of upcoming ANC meetings, and a unified portal for ANC documents (minutes, votes, financial reports) would help this team provide more complete information to District residents. We currently go to each ANC website manually looking for documents. See http://ancfinder.org/ for more information on this project.