A UNIQUE PARTNERSHIP
Located in central North Carolina (U.S), Durham County is one of the fastest growing regions in the U.S. The area is home of the world-famous Research Triangle Park; international research and development centers; and universities.
Early 2013, the city and the county of Durham made the decision to come together jointly to pursue an ambitious Open Data initiative. “Our community’s entrepreneurial energy and creativity gives us an advantage to innovate new ways of doing business by making information readily accessible” said Durham City Manager Thomas J. Bonfield. A challenge in itself, the partnership between both city and county government departments also represented an extraordinary opportunity to bring resources and ideas together.
Transparency being the major goal of the project, both entities had to find the right medium to make it easy for citizens to gain access to government data, and encourage them as well as entrepreneurs and government employees to utilize this abundance of public data for civic innovation.
Designed by OpenDataSoft, the Durham Open Data portal (opendurham.nc.gov) was publicly launched in June 2015. It covers a broad spectrum of data related to several topics and functions ranging from education, through transport, to police and justice information. The platform is built upon three types of data use and reuse:
+ A quick or thorough search through the data catalog for inquisitive users.
+ An intelligible reading of government project-related information through dashboards for concerned citizens.
+ The ability to download datasets and turn APIs into applications for inspired developers.
Easy as pie. Ease of use was at the top of Durham’s list in the process of selecting the right platform. Architected to be user-friendly, the OpenDataSoft solution allows any user – with or without knowledge about programming – to upload datasets and create pages, tabs or dashboards in the blink of an eye.
Security in the forefront. The platform keeps public information separated from confidential and private data. Because it is also designed to help Durham drive internal operations, the platform had to include the security criterion at the very heart of its system.
Data storytelling. As the platform automatically generates visualizations such as tables, graphs or maps, its gives Durham’s team the ability to develop up and running dashboards to make the data tell insightful stories.
MAKING COMPLEX INFORMATION DIGESTIBLE THROUGH DASHBOARDS
The Durham’s Open Data platform provides users with several dashboards designed to connect topic-related
datasets together in order to build meaningful visualizations, and shed light on interesting correlations. Restaurant inspections, traffic and crashes, crimes and larcenies or statistics on library use: the dashboards represent very powerful tools for telling stories with data and making intricate information readable to anyone. And, user experience is enhanced by having information easier to find and reducing the number of clicks. “We can make 95% of what our citizens are really looking for available through the dashboards” explained Greg Marrow, CIO of Durham County Government. “Our work with OpenDataSoft ensures that citizens will get an easily viewable dashboard and a simple process to combine and sort through relevant datasets,” he said. “This will help users from being overwhelmed in the amount of public data and miss meaningful information.”
+ A more simple and transparent government In the past, a lot of the data made available by both the city and the county of Durham could only be read through complex Excel spreadsheets or PDF files. Now, whether they explore education or health-related datasets via the Open Data platform, users won’t have to build complex models from stones to understand what is going on in Durham.
+ Information in one single common place The Open Data effort has helped consolidate information in one place. Data are no longer scattered around different places of the web and the Durham citizens can now browse through a well-ordered and structured multitude of data, without even wondering if they need to ask the county or the city for this or that kind of information.