Information Week Magazine named Cook County Government’s Bureau of Technology one of the leading innovators in Government Information Technology for 2012. InformationWeek’s Government IT Innovators awards, now in its fourth year, recognize local, state, and federal agencies for their innovative use of information technology.
Cook County won the award by leading the way in the creation of http://metrochicagodata.org, the first cloud-based collaborative open data site featuring datasets from Cook County, the City of Chicago, and the State of Illinois. Instead of residents having to look in 3 different places for data, MetroChicagoData.org virtualizes all datasets at one website.
“I’m proud of the leadership and staff at the Bureau of Technology,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “MetroChicagoData.org represents the some of the best of what I believe good government can be: innovative, transparent and collaborative.”
“Government technology doesn’t have to be the stepchild of the private sector,” said Lydia Murray, incoming Chief Information Officer for Cook County. “MetroChicagoData.org disproves the notion that innovation and collaboration can only come from corporations. Government provides more services to a significantly larger and unique set of customers. Working smarter and more collaboratively is the only way effective governments will be able to provide value to taxpayers,” she added.
Open Data is the publishing of once-hidden government data to a free public data website, or catalog. It is part of the recent open government movement to increase the transparency, accountability and performance of the public sector through innovative uses of the web, social networks and mobile platforms.
While governments have for some time made statistical datasets available publicly—first in published books and tables, then on diskette, and for the past 10-15 years downloadable or viewable on public-facing websites—the open government movement is unique in that it applies a standards-based approach to the release of government datasets to the public.
Metrochicagodata.org is hosted by Socrata (www.socrata.com) in a public cloud and is cooperatively managed by the three partner governments. It currently includes more than 1200 datasets and visualizations of public data in 10 categories including public safety, health, education, environment, transportation, tax and revenue, and buildings and property. This “convergence cloud” site federates information posted by Cook County, the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois to their individual data sites. The Socrata platform provides a simple way to access, view and download public datasets, and offers the ability for users to comment on and rate datasets and to create and save visualizations including a variety of graphs, charts and maps. The platform meets Open Data requirements and provides an open source API for developers to be able to connect directly to data sources on the site over the internet when building websites and mobile applications.
“One of the least talked about advantages with Open Data, and MetroChicagoData.org is its ability to provide opportunity for the new wave of digital entrepreneurs,” said Sebastian James, Deputy Director of New Media for Cook County. 10 years ago, if an entrepreneur wanted to build a business around a new idea for an analytics dashboard he or she would either have to create dummy data, or pay someone for data to test their creation. With Open Data, an entrepreneur can go to an data site, find and download what they need, and build a product based on real-world data,” said James.
In June 2012, county air quality data was used during a global hackathon which saw over 1000 participants in 10 cities worldwide compete to create a better model to predict daily air quality. “That’s part of the value of open data,” said James. “It makes innovation and collaboration infinitely easier and more effective.”
The editors of InformationWeek Government selected the winners following a nomination process that resulted in dozens of entries.