Open Data Day 2021: Southern Cities

Five cities come together to host a regional Open Data Day to share how open data has played a role in their cities

This guest post is authored by the Cities of Baton Rouge, Chattanooga, Little Rock, Memphis and New Orleans.

Open data is a tool that has many benefits from boosting internal efficiency and idea sharing to establishing better data governance. But the benefits of open data go far beyond these initial advantages. Cities that have open government data give residents the ability to collaborate directly with their city halls to keep their governments transparent and accountable. When fully leveraged, open data starts a conversation and can often provide a critical foundation for cities to build trust with their communities. As members of the What Works Cities network, we’re dedicated to improving outcomes for our residents through data-driven decision-making.

It doesn’t matter if you’re new to the open data space or if you’re leading your city’s open data work: you’ve most likely heard about “breaking down silos.” While we normally think about silo busting at an intergovernmental level, collaboration across cities is an important tool to elevate the conversation and strengthen data programs nationwide.

That’s why our five cities are teaming up in celebration of International Open Data Day to keep the conversation going, and learn from each other about open data portals, community engagement, key projects, and what has worked (or hasn’t worked!) as we’ve advanced the use of data and analysis in our cities.

Date: International Open Data Day — Friday March 5th, 9–11am CST
Registration: Here
Who: Government leaders, technology leaders, data analysts, academics, nonprofits, and data “nerds”

Mayors and senior technology staff from Baton Rouge, Chattanooga, Little Rock, Memphis and New Orleans, are coming together for a two hour webinar to unpack the role of open data in our respective local communities and how fostering transparency and innovation in government is vital in improving the quality of life in communities we serve. You can join the conversation by registering for this event here!

Read more to learn more about each of our cities, the agenda, and how you can get involved.

Meet the Cities That Are Changing How Residents Engage with Local Government

Baton Rouge, LA

In December 2017, Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome and the East Baton Rouge Parish Metropolitan Council authorized a formal open data policy that established an “open by default” mandate for all City-Parish data. Open Data BR serves as the hub for the City-Parish’s open data program, providing direct access to nearly 50 datasets that complement nearly 200 datasets available through the City-Parish’s EBRGIS portal.

In January 2021, Mayor Broome launched Open Budget BR, providing an unprecedented view into the City-Parish’s annual budget that serves as a companion platform to Open Checkbook BR, helping residents easily understand the flow of revenues and expenses that support annual City-Parish operations. These and other open data efforts have earned the City-Parish numerous accolades, including being named the third most digital city among mid-sized U.S. cities and ranking sixth overall in the U.S. City Open Data Census.

For more information on the City-Parish’s open data program and other transparency initiatives, visit brla.gov/transparency.

Chattanooga, TN

Chattanooga’s Open Data program was created by executive order by Mayor Andy Berke during the National Day of Civic Hacking on May 31, 2014. The city’s open data portal was live by September of that same year. On the ChattaData Open Data Portal, Chattanoogans can search over 160 open datasets, interact with several open data powered applications, review the city’s performance dashboard, and even interact with the city’s open data chattbot.

You can learn more about the city’s open data program by visiting the open data portal or by visiting the city’s open data resource page.

Little Rock, AR

Little Rock’s Open Data program was created by City Resolution 14,325 on May 3, 2016. The city’s open data site went live that same year. On the Little Rock Data Hub, residents can search open datasets, interact with open data powered visualizations, explore data in their neighborhoods on Citizen Connect, and review the city’s performance measures.

To learn more about our overall Performance & Innovation practice, please visit us at https://data.littlerock.gov/stories/s/duxz-3kkq.

Memphis, TN

Memphis is proud to be a WWC Silver Certified city and a key piece to that effort is our open data initiative. Re-launched in October 2019, the Memphis Data Hub follows through on Mayor Strickland’s promise to be held accountable for the City’s performance on core responsibilities, and promotes trust by increasing transparency across all divisions. The focus for the Memphis Data Hub is on increased usability and resident engagement. For the first time, incident level public safety data is released as far back as 2006, and the new Open311 tool expands the information available about the work the City is doing to improve neighborhood conditions.

Internally, the Memphis Data Hub is the foundation for how we continually use data to inform our decisions; having a platform to load and share data across divisions allows City leaders to break down silos and better work together to be “brilliant at the basics.”

New Orleans, LA

New Orleans first opened a dataset in 2010 by publishing the parcel layer to help citizens address blight in their neighborhoods after Hurricane Katrina. Datasets are hosted at https://datadriven.nola.gov where residents can find crime data, permit and enforcement information, short-term rentals and wealth of GIS assets. Multiple applications are built on top of the open data platform including Streetwise, ExploreNOLA, and the PropertyViewer.

Southern Cities Open Data Day Agenda

Hear from:

  • Mayor Andy Berke of Chattanooga (@AndyBerke)
  • Mayor Sharon Weston Broome of Baton Rouge, LA (@MayorBroome)
  • Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. of Little Rock, AR (@FrankScottJr)
  • Mayor Jim Strickland of Memphis TN (@MayorMemphis)

These four mayors will participate in a moderated discussion about the importance of open data and how data is used in their respective cities to drive policy initiatives, improve services, facilitate communications with residents, promote a culture of data through their governing, and some of the challenges and successes they’ve faced deploying open data programs.

In addition to the mayor’s panel, join the leaders of each city’s open data program for a roundtable discussion — City Technology Leaders Roundtable — on their individual open data programs, highlighting key successes of each program and how their cities are using specific datasets or types of data in their respective governments and communities.

In coming together to share what we know, we’ve seen that collaboration across cities is an important tool to:

  • Elevate the conversation on what’s possible
  • Strengthen data programs nationwide
  • Advance best practices
  • Learn from each other about our open data portals
  • Explore maximizing community engagement
  • Support development of key projects
  • Share what has worked (or hasn’t!) as we’ve advanced the use of data and analysis in our cities

Join the conversation by registering here.

Baton Rouge, Chattanooga, Little Rock, Memphis and New Orleans are all members of the What Works Cities network and have demonstrated a commitment to data-driven leadership and decision making. Open Data is one of the foundational data practices outlined by What Works Cities Certification, the national standard of excellence for well-managed, data-driven local government.

Memphis and New Orleans have both achieved What Works Cities Certification at the Silver level and have been recognized nationally for their use of data to improve residents’ lives.

What Works Cities is a national initiative that partners with cities as they tackle pressing community challenges and improve residents’ lives through data-driven decision making. Learn more about the program and how to get access to support, here.

Completing a What Works Cities Assessment is the first step to receiving exclusive, pro bono support from What Works Cities to continue building a more effective local government. The program is open to any U.S. city with a population of 30,000 or higher.

Helping leading cities across the U.S. use data and evidence to improve results for their residents. Launched by @BloombergDotOrg in April 2015.

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