Application of Open Data by the City of Los Angeles Office
Last week, the CIO of the California Department of Technology mentioned that Open Data is one of the big technology initiatives that is facilitating the democratization data to the public for various use cases. The open data website mentions that “California believes in the power of unlocking government data. We believe the California open data portal will bring government closer to citizens and start a new shared conversation for growth and progress in our great state”. Thus, a vision for shared collection and use of data exists. This data could include data on crime statistics, public health (with Personal Health Information protected), transportation data, cleanliness and environment-related data, weather data, etc. Hence, a variety of use cases can be imagined.
Last summer, I had the unique opportunity to work on a project with the City of Los Angeles, and use their 311-Call Center data to drive insights to the office. The data actually included information about phone calls and web requests by Los Angeles residents requesting for cleanliness of garbage, picking up of bulky items, assistance with public utility (electricity) damage, and even graffiti removal requests. It was great to see that the city of LA office was collecting this data as part of their open data initiative. Hence, we analyzed the inflow of data and realized that there was the need for a more-targeted interactive-voice-response technology to ensure that requests were being sent to the appropriate sub-departments and were hence being handled more quickly. Simple analysis and visualizations reveal times of high demand for support (e.g. bulky item removal requests peaked during August when most colleges had move-in/move-out times since students often discard large furniture). Additionally, zip codes that had lowest completion and fulfillment rates of requests were also revealed, and interestingly happened to be those with lower median incomes.
While the government is making an attempt to collect data about various public resources, I would argue that it needs to do more. Collecting the data is a first step, however, the government needs to help spearhead innovation by actually setting up various use cases of the data. For example, crime statistics could be strongly integrated into the police and safety efforts of cities, and health data can be incorporated into various public health measures. Moreover, the government should actively seek out partnerships with private entities that may be better equipped to specialize in the use of data for specific use cases. Thus, I feel that collection of data is an essential first step towards progress, however significant advancements can only be made once the data is made to be an integral part of the operating process of various public works, and when specific data innovation requests are actively sought out by the government.