Naperville data portal releases public information for analysis
Running a city creates a lot of information.
Crime reports. Building permit lists. Salary spreadsheets. Budgets. Capital project plans. And that's not even the half of it.
The city of Naperville is releasing 38 sets of municipal data beginning Friday on its new open data portal at data.naperville.il.us.
The release of information follows the city's partnership with the What Works Cities initiative, which promotes widespread sharing of government information for use by residents, businesses and technology developers to answer questions and solve problems.
"We have a lot of data at the city, but it's not our data," Deputy City Manager Marcie Schatz said. "It's the public's data."
The home page at data.naperville.il.us will allow visitors to view the data sets broken into categories based on the city's four major goals of providing financial stability, pursuing economic development, ensuring public safety and being a high-performing government. Data listed on the main portal page also includes maps (and boy, do people love maps, Schatz says), results of the city's 2016 citizen survey and links to meeting agendas.
More detailed data pages for each of the four main goals use charts, maps, photos and graphics with numbers to track the city's progress toward more specific initiatives, such as filling vacant anchor spaces at two of eight identified shopping centers and certifying 20 percent of police department staff members in Crisis Intervention Team procedures for mental health calls.
"The goal here is really to tell a story of what's going on," Schatz said.
Users of the data portal will be able to click on a set of information and open it within a webpage that will allow them to filter and sort until it's useful to them. For example, anyone browsing crime statistics can filter by location to see crimes reported on a specific street, said Jeff Anderson, director of information technology.
"This is a simple visualization tool up front," Anderson said about the data portal.
The city is open to feedback from data users and plans to adjust the information it shares to best answer resident questions.
"We look to continue to grow the site overall," Schatz said.
In the past, anyone seeking city data had to file a Freedom of Information Act request and typically received the information as a pdf document, which doesn't offer the ability to sort of filter. The city plans to promote the data portal to professors and students at North Central college and to host future "hackathon" type events for technology developers interested in mining the facts and figures for ideas for new apps.
Users new to data analysis can get a few tips from a "User Guide" link at the bottom of the portal.