Working with councilmembers and city administrators in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Open Data Nation helped put the city on the map as one of the leading innovative mid-sized U.S. cities using open data.  

As in other cities, Cambridge Councilmembers must allocate resources to improve public safety, efficiently provide services to residents, and make Cambridge a place where people like to ride bikes or walk to school and work.

But Cambridge is unique from many other U.S. cities in that its government recognized the untapped potential of existing open data to inform policy decisions.

 

Open Data Nation knew city policymakers could benefit from knowing: 

  • Where are Cambridge's most unsafe intersections?  
  • Are the City's investments in bike lanes and better lighting actually increasing safety?  
  • Can Cambridge give residents the information they need to make good decisions and avoid unsafe intersections?
 

Building on these questions, Open Data Nation organized and managed the Street Safety Challenge, a custom event that invited Cambridge residents to put their local knowledge and expertise to good use. The city provided the data--three years of data on the time and location of  traffic accidents involving drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists--and Open Data Nation handled the rest. 

Through data visualizations, web applications, and statistical analysis, Challenge participants created eight new innovations to inform the City’s operations and improve the quality of life in their community.   

 

Over the course of the month-long Challenge, the dataset on traffic accidents was viewed over 2,500 times, making it the most viewed data on Cambridge Open Data Portal in 2014.

The Boston Globe, BetaBoston, Cambridge Day, and other area media covered the event, amplifying the impact of the Challenge well beyond Cambridge city limits. 

Once participants had submitted their solutions, Open Data Nation organized a policy workshop that brought together over 50 Cambridge residents, ranging from high school students to transportation engineers. This workshop allowed residents to meet with legislators face-to-face and hear from experts such as Data Therapist Rahul Bhargav about the power of open data. Last but not least, the Challenge winners received cash prizes for their innovations.

 

 

 

 

MISSED THE SAFE STREETS POLICY WORKSHOP?

 

As a result of the policy workshop, Challenge winner and MIT graduate student Kris Fosmoe and his team were invited to speak to the Cambridge City Council's Long Term Planning Committee.  Kris’s testimony stressed the importance of the Open Data Nation challenge, affirming it provided both an opportunity for his voice to be heard in City Hall and a catalyst for new civic innovations.

 

 

CHALLENGE JUDGES

  • Nadeem Mazen, City Council Member, City of Cambridge, MA

  • Dan O'Brien, Research Director, Boston Area Research Initiative

  • Holly St. Clair, Director of Data Services, Massachusetts Area Planning Council

  • Nidhi Subbaraman, Staff Writer, BetaBoston of the Boston Globe

 

SPONSORS

  • City of Cambridge

  • Microsoft

  • MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning

  • MIT Lab for Regional Innovation and Spatial Analysis

  • MIT Senseable City Lab

  • MIT Center for Civic Media

  • MIT Office of the Dean of Graduate Education