Town of Chapel Hill Launches Open Data Platform
Where are all of the traffic signals in Chapel Hill? How many bicycle crashes are reported annually in our town? How many police searches were there last year? On Tuesday, July 5, finding this and other data will get easier with the Town of Chapel Hill’s new information service, Chapel Hill Open Data.
With this web-based service, anyone in the community or around the world can access an ever-growing catalog of data sets from Town departments and divisions at www.chapelhillopendata.org. Users can easily create graphs, charts, and maps based on the data sets, as well as download data, interact with it, and reuse it. The site’s goal is to increase government transparency by facilitating public access to local government information.
Chapel Hill Public Library managed the planning, design, and implementation of the service, which advances the Town Council’s goal of increasing civic understanding and Town Manager Roger Stancil’s interest in supporting data-driven decision making. Stancil stresses that this is a Town service that is managed by one Town department. “Public libraries in general – and Chapel Hill Public Library in particular – are highly trusted public institutions whose core business is to make information freely available in a neutral manner. Our Library was a natural fit to lead this effort, collaborate with other departments, and manage the site and the service.”
The site will go live with more than 30 data sets from multiple Town departments with plans to add more. Project Manager David Green notes that the site will not be static; it will change and grow as more people use it and offer feedback. “We will ask users to help us prioritize what data sets to add next and how we can continually improve the site.” Green also notes that the site will launch with some of the data sets of greatest interest to Chapel Hill, including police statistics and the latest Community Satisfaction Survey.
Rather than develop the service from the ground up, the Library selected a turnkey solution from a leading company, OpenDataSoft. The Town has a two-year agreement and will pay the company $15,600 annually.
Chapel Hill is joining the ranks of other Triangle area governments that have launched similar services, including Durham, Cary, and Raleigh. In his recent tenure with the Town of Cary, Chapel Hill Chief Information Officer Scott Clark served on the project team that initiated a similar service. Clark states that open data can have a variety of positive impacts, noting “As more municipalities get on board with open data, the possibilities for information sharing and innovative problem solving increase, both within local government and among the communities they serve.”
When the site goes live on July 5, users can immediately explore the data that is posted there and get familiar with the platform. In the fall, the Town will host public events to explore the data, engage Chapel Hill residents and the local community of civic coders, and think creatively about what might happen next with this service. The Town will continue to release more information about the service and upcoming events later this summer.