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Dive into data with city's new open source website

Posted by boston.com  February 21, 2014 10:00 AM

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The following was submitted by the city of Somerville:

Did you know that Somerville’s birth rate surpassed Massachusetts’ falling rate a few years back? Or that the city has had a lower unemployment rate than the state and the nation since 2000? You can delve into this data and more with the City of Somerville’s new open source website, Key System Indicators at somervillema.gov/dashboard, which includes data on living, working, playing and raising a family in Somerville.

That data includes everything from property values and city revenues, to the results of the city’s Happiness Survey and the number of temporary food permits approved each year. And for the first time, the City provides maps of property values and crime in Somerville. An example of the City’s commitment to openness and transparency, the website makes this data available to everyone through an easy to browse and view format, which was developed at no cost beyond staff time by the City.

“Not only does tracking data and making it publicly available allow the public to hold us accountable for our performance, it makes it easier for people outside of City Hall to get involved in the decision-making process and come up with creative solutions,” said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. “Open data lets us make decisions that might not be obvious at first, but once you delve into the numbers, the answer is staring right back at us.  “With the data out there available to anyone who wants to dive in, residents can also approach the City with counterintuitive proposals. Whether the idea comes from City officials or the public, open data often leads us to conclusions we wouldn’t intuitively know outright.”
 
Some more facts that stand out from the data include:
 
· Somerville has one of the highest concentrations of transit commuters in the country.

·Somerville has the sixth highest concentration of same-sex couples among cities in the nation.

· Residents rank their satisfaction with community events the highest and the cost of housing lowest.

· Neighborhood satisfaction is highest in Davis Square and the Ward 2 area near Union Square.

·Burglaries are most common in East Somerville near lower Broadway and along the Cambridge border near the end of Beacon Street.

· Crime is down significantly across all categories, dropping by roughly one-third since 2008.

 
The Key Systems Indicators website was built using open source tools for free by City staff, saving taxpayers the cost of website development while sharing more information and data in a clear, transparent way out to the public. The website’s code is available for free for anyone including other cities and towns to copy and use on GitHub at github.com/DanielHadley/SomervilleSystems.
 
“Getting data out to the public in a clear way that’s easy to grasp makes everyone in Somerville better informed citizens and neighbors,” said SomerStat Director Daniel Hadley. “As outside resources dwindle and we have to do more with less, open data is an equalizer. It puts smaller cities and towns, which might not have as many resources as larger cities, in a position to crowd source some of their analysis and programming. That in turn can help municipalities find ways to be leaner, more efficient and deliver the services that residents deserve.”

The Key Systems Indicator website is the latest in the City of Somerville’s efforts to make data and information open and transparent. The City previously shared information through a Socrata-powered Open Data Portal and brings City data to residents at regular ResiStat meetings held twice a year in each ward. Regular posts on the latest findings made with City data can also be found on Somerville’s ResiStat Blog at somervilleresistat.blogspot.com.
 

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