Midsize Cities Get a New, Free Data Portal Option

Cary, North Carolina

Cary, North Carolina


Connecting state and local government leaders

Open Data America wants to do for other municipalities what it did in Cary, North Carolina.

Midsize cities have a new, free open data portal available to them, for analytics and community engagement around innovative civic solutions, in Open Data America.

More than 500 cities had pertinent datasets compiled on their behalf at launch for public use and visualization.

Cary, North Carolina’s open data program is more advanced but still relies on the portal Open Data America’s developer, Boston-based OpenDataSoft, has provided them the last two years for easy access to information like the number of fire calls residents make per month.

“There are many midsize-to-small cities that might not have the technical capacity, resources or time to initiate an open data program,” Reid Serozi, the city’s innovation and analytics manager, told Route Fifty by phone. “And while there's a lot more involved than simply opening a data porta, it’s an early win that provides a huge advantage.”

Cary, which has a population of more than 160,000 residents and is located just west of Raleigh, recently embarked on a simulated smart city project, turning the town and, in particular, its government campus into a testbed for companies evaluating and testing “internet of things” technologies. Sensors in the parking lot let City Hall know how full it is, and the solution may soon “graduate into a public space” like a parking deck or downtown parking corridor, Serozi said.

That raised the question among city officials: Can the data generated be released on the municipal portal?

The move will give residents an equal opportunity to discuss findings and participate in subsequent decisionmaking.

“One way of looking at the open data platform is as an opportunity to socialize the simulated city for a certain persona of individual that wants to dive deeper and cocreate with the town of Cary. by giving them a stake in the partnership,” Serozi said. “They may not be part of a project, but we want to provide the data the project is generating—reaching out for talent that we may not have within our own cycle.”

High-value data sets are still being identified, and then sharing will be considered likely beginning with parking sensor data.

Smaller cities neighboring Cary that lack an open data portal but fall within the larger Research Triangle ecosystem can use Open Data America to bolster regional insights.

Open Data America launched in late October in collaboration with Amazon Web Services, and portal subscriptions are available through the cloud computing subsidiary’s online store.

“We have seen firsthand how much a city can accomplish for its community using open data,” said Franck Carassus, OpenDataSoft cofounder and COO, in a statement. “We are excited to bring these opportunities to such a large set of American cities, towns and counties.”

Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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