Students get a taste of DC open data

On April 21st, Open Data Nation and the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) co-hosted a panel of demonstrations of data analysis and visualization built from the District of Columbia’s open data. In attendance were students currently learning data analytics skills including SQL and Tableau at General Assembly, a modern-day skills training organization.

Launched in 2007, the District’s open data portal was the first of its kind to host information collected and generated by municipal agencies in a common webpage. Today, the portal hosts over 800 datasets ranging from food inspection results to the outcomes of permit requests. From this resource, the District does its part to create dashboards, maps, and visualizations that help inform decision making and encourages others to analyze the data and create web applications.

The night kicked off with a presentation by OCTO's Lead GIS Applications Developer, Julie Kanzler, speaking about applications built by OCTO that visualize which roads that had been plowed during Snowmageddon, a snow event in 2015. Further, she pointed to new data assets that were, perhaps, waiting for similar tools to be built, including the District’s 17 million traffic crash incidents.

Next up, two graduates of the General Assembly Data Analytics part-time course presented their research and findings. The research of Dominque Hevesi focused on the growth in restaurant inspections and violations of the health code. Hevesi found that the 7% growth in the number of routine inspections from 2011 to 2014, resulted in dramatic, 69%, growth in the number of violations found.  As a result, the number of follow up inspections increased by 15% over this period. 

Brian Sargent evaluated 311 data, describing service requests for things like sidewalk repair and parking meter repairs. Sargent found that while the District sets a performance standard for resolving parking meter requests for repairs of 3 days, the District did not meet this self-imposed standard in the aggregate nor in any of the eight wards in 2010. The overall average days to resolve a parking meter repair in 2010 was 3.85 days. Sidewalk repairs were more dismal. While the standard sets 25 days as the goal, on average sidewalks were repaired within 85 business days, with the best performance in the District’s poorest communities, Wards 7 (59 days, on average) and 8 (43 days, on average) in 2010. One reason for this is that sidewalk repairs are not be possible on cold days when pavement will not set.

Following the presentations, a robust conversation about data analytics and the open data assets that are available publicly, exposed opportunities for future analysis. In the next 6 weeks, attendees of this event will be tasked with creating their own analysis and visualizations of data. More to come.