White House launches new open data effort for local community use


Source: Pixabay

The White House has launched a new open data effort called The Opportunity Project designed to open and expand opportunities at the community level through the use of readily available, user-friendly federal and local data. Through data visualization, civic leaders, community organizations, families and individuals can readily identify "critical resources such as access to jobs, housing, transportation, schools, and other neighborhood amenities." Civic leaders can also readily see where inequality exists in access to resources and take corrective measures.

Esri provides one of the tools behind this effort. Specifically, it visualizes community resources on maps, be they provided by local entities or the federal government.

"That's where the power of providing information through a map comes in. Americans are tenacious. Many times people want better opportunities, but they are not sure where these opportunities might be located," Jeff Peters, director global business development, National Government Sector at Esri, told me in an email.

"This is frustrating to so many, because opportunities abound – locations of new jobs, information on schools, where affordable housing is located and where it is close to shopping and health care for those who don't have cars."

This is data consumerization at its finest because it's information free of commercial interest and therefore free of manipulation or bias. Meaning it's pure information upon which citizens can freely act without cost, without being continuously peppered with ads (at least for the moment), and without worry that some information may be absent because the data provider didn't pay a fee to be included on the map.

So where does this data come from? From lots of existing public databases. One example would be the HUD eGIS Open Data site.

"The HUD eGIS Open Data site is home to many Open Opportunity Datasets and uses the ArcGIS Open Data Platform to providing mapping and analysis of this information," said Peters.

"Because ArcGIS is used by hundreds of thousands of organizations, including libraries and schools throughout the U.S., anyone can access, use, and understand this information. "

You can see those data sets on the Esri map site or the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website.

In the case of the Esri maps, data was also used from the U.S. Census Bureau. Presumably other open data will be added as it becomes available. Certainly capabilities will be expanded.

Esri said in a statement to the press that it plans to "add capabilities to normalize the information models across different government data services so that users can understand and compare cross-jurisdictional opportunities."

Of course all this is built on open data that commercial interests can use too for their own purposes. That's the beauty of open data – it's available to all to use however they need it.

And with that we bid the Information Age adieu and extend a warm welcome to the Knowledge Eon.

For more:
- see this fact sheet
- see the Esri map site
- see the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website
- see this Esri press release

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