Open Data - Gateway to Smart Communities of the Future

Michael Finch, CIO, Lane County Government
Michael Finch, CIO, Lane County Government

Michael Finch, CIO, Lane County Government

A successful community works together to grow a strong economy, a healthy and safe environment and a strong sense of purpose for those who live, work, and play within it. Just like any business or organization, Smart Communities today like Lane County are achieving these outcomes through digital transformation at the community level. Applying technology to service delivery has been an important step forward, but Smart Communities have recognized the need to focus their efforts on revolutionizing their approach to sharing and using data. This is because data-driven decision making and solving problems by observing, analyzing, and predicting outcomes changes the game. Since most organizations do not possess all of the data and information necessary to connect the dots, Lane County recognizes a Smart Community future will be achieved by providing open data wherever possible, identifying tools for analyzing and visualizing information and having a common framework to operate from.

  By embracing a philosophy of sharing and openness with data, communities are finding the ability to use the latest in technology to drive prosperity and happiness for their citizens​  

Smart Communities are powered by sharing information through open data. Just as farmers understand the seasons to drive successful crops and fisherman study the tides to maximize their catch, Smart Communities use all of the information at their disposal to drive economic success and resiliency. Every organization and business that functions within the community captures data as part of their daily work. Where possible, providing free and open access to this data allows researchers and analysts involved in the community to study patterns and outcomes, and provide predictive information that drives the best decisions. Lane County is studying the principals of open data documented by organizations such as the Sunlight Foundation to learn, adopt, and apply principles that will fuel our smart community with the data it needs.

Modern data analytic tools such as Power BI and Tableau provide the ability to rapidly mine data. Data Scientists empowered with tools such as these can help community leaders have the best information at their fingertips when making key policy and resource decisions. In 2017, Lane County Health & Human Services invested in a data analytics team and tools that have quickly proven their capability for improving outcomes in key service delivery in Lane County. As such, building on this success and growing investments in data analytics technologies, including exploring machine learning has become part of Lane County’s strategic plan. Smart Communities leverage tools that turn data into information leaders can use to drive decisions and investments that provide the best outcomes for safer and healthier places to live.

Without a common framework and language to build from, communities risk a modern day Tower of Babel as they work to tackle the complex problems of today. Building a successful framework will take time and partnerships in the community. Lane County has been partnering with the University of Oregon, Lane Council of Governments, the Technology Association of Oregon, and countless others in our community to help develop a framework we can all share in. Each of these partnerships has yielded tremendous outcomes for our community, including a Policy Lab, regional datasets, “lunch and learn” opportunities and more. Smart Communities invest in the time and relationships needed to drive understanding of the importance of sharing data and establishing standards in how to provide it.

Digital Transformation is something highly successful organizations today invest in to drive continuous improvements in service delivery and resilience of their operations. It makes sense, then, that Smart Communities make this same investment and work together toward the common good. By embracing a philosophy of sharing and openness with data, communities are finding the ability to use the latest in technology to drive prosperity and happiness for their citizens.

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