A Better Way to Release Your City’s Data

Chris Bousquet | Data-Smart City Solultions | May 23, 2017

By releasing data in themed packages, cities create human-centered tools that energize users

Open data has immense potential to catalyze creative problem solving by practitioners and policymakers, but troves of vaguely-labeled spreadsheets will do little to inspire interest or facilitate innovative solutions. To unlock the value of open data, governments have begun to launch open datasets in themed releases, which contain data and additional context about a specific policy area. These open datasets have two distinct advantages: a more useful and navigable platform for users and better marketing appeal to practitioners focused on the policy area.

Creating a data hub for a specific audience allows developers to tailor their design to the needs of those who will use it. In developing its NYC Business Atlas—a mapping tool that unites business-related datasets to help entrepreneurs make informed decisions— New York focused on the needs of small business owners.

The Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics (MODA) partnered with the Department of Small Business Services (SBS) to conduct a great deal of user research on New York’s small business community in order to ensure that the NYC Business Atlas’s design was user-centered. According to Lindsay Mollineaux, Deputy Chief Analytics Officer for MODA, “Some of the needed data in designing the Atlas was obvious to us, but the question was what is useful to entrepreneurs versus information overload? SBS served as our subject matter experts who interfaced with actual entrepreneurs (for example, people might come to them about opening a bakery) and could use the Atlas to directly serve these needs”...