Town officials hope a new online data portal will give residents and private busineses greater access to information and new ways to interact with local government.
Chapel Hill Open Data meets the Town Council’s goal of helping residents better understand how their government works, officials said, and supports an interest in data-driven decision making.
It’s a place where “employees and people in the community can get data and actually play with the data and help us come up with our community solutions,” Town Manager Roger Stancil has said.
The service launched Tuesday at chapelhillopendata.org with more than 30 data sets from town departments and divisions, from public safety and crime to town budgets, planning, and sports and culture.
The town signed a two-year, $31,200 agreement with OpenDataSoft for the software, instead of building a new system. Chapel Hill Public Library officials designed, implemented and will maintain the service, which allows users to download data and create graphs, charts and maps.
“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,” Stancil said. “Our library was a natural fit to lead this effort, collaborate with other departments and manage the site and the service.”
More data will be added over time, project officials said, including a map of trails and greenways. The site also will change as more people use it and offer feedback, project manager David Green said.
“A lot of pundits have said that data is the raw material of the 21st century,” noted Jason Hare, an OpenSoftData official who has worked on 16 open data projects in the last few years, including in Raleigh.
“So as we move into more of information-based economy, a knowledge-based economy, these data can be available for innovation and also transparency,” he said.
Durham and Cary also offer open data services, officials said.
The effects can be positive, said Scott Clark, Chapel Hill’s chief information officer and a former member of Cary’s project team.
“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,” he said.
The town will release more information and announce upcoming events later this summer. Events this fall could teach users how to better explore the data and think creatively about potential uses for the service.
“The amount of stuff you guys generate is just amazing,” Hare said. “We’re going to consume all of that, and this will be one of the most advanced open data portals in the U.S. when we’re done.”
Learn more about the Chapel Hill Open Data site and explore the available data at chapelhillopendata.org.