Beginning in July, the City of Somerville has said it will flip the switch on a new website that will put huge chunks of municipal data online for public inspection.
The system is the first in use by a New England city based on a cloud-computing model, the ethereal moniker for systems allows any user with an Internet connection to plug into a much larger database.
In use from Seattle to New York City, the OpenData software has the potential to swing open the floodgates on the last decade's worth of work by Somerville technologists, demographers, and planners, who have spent millions of dollars and thousands of hours quantifying and analyzing city problems.
"Somerville has continually been at the forefront of innovative government management and transparency, and we're excited to roll out this latest data tracking tool to bring real time information to residents," said Mayor Joseph Curtatone, in a statement Thursday announcing the program.
The software will be provided by Seattle-based Socrata, Inc., which also supplies the same management tools to Chicago, Baltimore, and New Orleans, among other cities.
Chief among the information to become available will be real-time data on 311 calls for service, mimicking a system in place in Boston that allows residents to watch a complaint meander through the ranks of government until the issue is addressed.
The timing of the data program is apt for the city, which has been coping with a drop in calls to its 311 service and a correlating increase in Facebook and other Internet communiques from the public, according to the latest budget proposal. Opening the books on calls for service could reinvigorate the 311 hotline, first opened six years ago.
"Since its inception in 2006, the focus of 311 has always been to provide excellent customer service to our residents, and to make access to City Hall as easy as possible," said Steve Craig, director of constituent services. "We are excited about this new partnership with Socrata, which will further our mission to make this kind of information available to the public in real-time and provide another way for us to engage residents."