Why Northeast Ohio Needs an Open Data Collaboration

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—The goal of the Northeast Ohio Open Data Collaboration is to build-out a common platform based on well-designed, best practice data architecture.

—By Lev Gonick, CEO

Lev Gonick, CEO OneCommunity

Lev Gonick

—The sheer volume of structured data available in 21st century democracies has made citizens in Cleveland and elsewhere in the region some of the most informed and empowered people in history.

Now, governments and other public sector organizations and agencies serving this tech-savvy, data-hungry public are under immense pressure to deliver public information as efficiently as TripAdvisor publishes hotel and restaurant reviews.

“Open data means taking data that is sitting in the vaults of government, that the tax payers have already paid for, and jujitsuing it into the public domain as machine-readable fuel for entrepreneurship and innovation,” Todd Park, U.S. Chief Technology Officer.

Over the past 20 years, or so, as demand and pressure for accountability, transparency, and efficiency has grown, a new platform technology has emerged to make delivering public information doable in a common, consistent and integrated fashion.

All across the world, forward-thinking governments and other public agencies and organizations have already embraced and begun to experiment with this burgeoning field. They have created real-time dashboards with government performance metrics, geo-location tools for the use of real-time maps overlaying priority data, and APIs to help developers build apps using public information, and more.

The open data movement is powerful not only because of its core values and commitments to openness and transparency. Twenty-first century government and public agencies and organizations need intelligent business tools to carry out their traditional functions and to propose and build innovative solutions and policies to address the community’s highest priorities.

What is Open Data?

Open data uses advanced network infrastructure and new tools like cloud-based technology and application programming interfaces (APIs) to help government agencies and other public organizations get more information out to citizens than ever before.

The core of the open data movement is ‘making data that belongs to the public broadly accessible and usable by humans and machines, free of any legal constraints, bureaucratic restrictions, or proprietary technologies.’

Why? Because the goal of open data is to take this valuable resource out of government and other public agency database silos where it sits idle, or at best underutilized, and put it into the hands of people both inside and outside of government who can unlock its value.

Why OneCommunity?

Over 800 public sector facilities and agencies are on the OneCommunity fiber optic network throughout Northeast Ohio. The build-out of one of the nation’s largest public benefit and open networks provides OneCommunity with a well earned reputation for engaging with the public sector to build new, sometimes never-before-seen offerings. A number of public leaders across the region have asked us at OneCommunity to help them with what they know is a critical building block in meeting public demand and expectation in the digital age.

The Big Idea

The goal of the Northeast Ohio Open Data Collaboration is to build-out a common platform based on well-designed, best practice data architecture. The three verticals we will focus on are health and wellness, education and workforce development, and civic and government services.

Phase One: Health and Wellness Open Data Repository

With funding from the St. Luke’s and the George Gund Foundation, Case Western Reserve University’s Urban Health Initiative has convened stakeholders interested in creating a community health data dashboard and an open data platform focused on health and the social determinants of health. That resource will be available by January 2015. Working closely with Case Western, OneCommunity has convened a broader group of stakeholders under the moniker of “Digital Cleveland,” to investigate whether the region is ready to expand that vision to serve all sectors of interest. I am pleased to report that across the board, from coders to public officials, the time is right to begin a collective project.

Jointly led by experts from Case Western Reserve University and OneCommunity, the multisector Open Data Portal will build on similar efforts undertaken in peer communities such as Detroit, Philadelphia, Chicago and Baltimore.  It will also take advantage of the unique assets of our region including:

  • Unparalleled capacity for access to and secure storage of large datasets;
  • Voluminous data from world class health care institutions;
  • National leadership in health information technology; and
  • Entrepreneurship creating innovative uses of data to improve individual and community health.

In addition to OneCommunity and Case Western Reserve University’s Urban Health initiative, key stakeholder involved to date include:

  • Case Western Reserve University
    Prevention Research Center for Healthy Neighborhoods
  • Center for Community Solutions Center for Health Affairs Cleveland Department of Public Health
  • Cuyahoga County Board of Health
  • Health Improvement Partnership-Cuyahoga
  • MetroHealth Hospital System
  • Office of Cuyahoga County Executive
  • University Hospitals

The Ask

We want you to be involved. Help us champion the value of Open Data. Help us build a region-wide Open Data consensus. If you have technical chops join the growing coalition of the willing working on building out the platform. If you are a data scientist or business analyst we want to hear from you too. Email Amy Sheon, amy.sheon@case.edu, to let us know what you can contribute to the region’s Open Data effort.

Cleveland and the region can establish a national reference architecture and proof point in realizing the art of the possible. Together, we can make big data have a big impact on our region.

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