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Somerville Launches new ‘Indicators’ Portal to Drive Open Data Solutions

February 25, 2014

Last week, the City of Somerville launched a new initiative to engage citizens through open data and aimed at developers interested in harnessing new municipal data sets to build innovative solutions. This new

resource, called the Key Systems Indicators portal, includes city managed data which covers a variety of topics including city revenues, recreation programs, and the results of the city’s annual “Happiness Survey.” Through this launch, the city is offering maps of both “property values and crime in Somerville” for the first time.  

This new portal was built “using open source tools for free by City staff, saving taxpayers the cost of website development while sharing more information and data in a clear, transparent way out to the public,” according to announcement of the new initiative

Making data open and transparent is not new to Somerville. In addition to the Key System Indicators site, the city has previously shared city data via a “Socrata-powered Open Data Portal” but also hosts a program called ResiStat, which is aimed at propelling “data-driven discussions and decision-making to residents and promote civic engagement.”

Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone cites the key rationale for the city’s push toward open data:

“Not only does tracking data and making it publicly available allow the public to hold us accountable for our performance, it makes it easier for people outside of City Hall to get involved in the decision-making process and come up with creative solutions…”

As noted in the announcement, the city has identified some high-level trends from the data, which highlights the types of insights found. Through this analysis they found:

  • Somerville has one of the highest concentrations of transit commuters in the country;
  • The city has the sixth highest concentration of same-sex couples among cities in the nation;
  • Residents rank their satisfaction with community events the highest and the cost of housing lowest;
  • Neighborhood satisfaction is highest in Davis Square and the Ward 2 area near Union Square;
  • Burglaries are most common in East Somerville near lower Broadway and along the Cambridge border near the end of Beacon Street;
  • Crime is down significantly across all categories, dropping by roughly one-third since 2008.

In addition to Somerville, cities and public agencies throughout Massachusetts have embraced the idea of open data, including the City of Boston, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) to name just a few.

Somerville has blazed a pioneering path for mid-sized cities who are looking to engage with the public around open data and increased transparency. We at MassBigData congratulate the city on this exciting new endeavor and look forward to hearing about the outcomes of the project!

 

Somerville KeyIndicators portal3