We've Created a Public Data Utility for All Oaklanders to Access Critical Data About their Environments

What's a Public Data Utility and where did it come from?

We've followed the Open Data and Open Government movement (outlined below for your convenience) for many years. We appreciate the work people have done to unearth data that is collected through government agencies and sometimes sits around dormant for years without anyone knowing it's there.  The goal is to make this data useful for the people, the constituents, the voters, the kids and anyone who wants to learn more about what's going on with people and communities.

We see the value of historic data and we want to supercharge it with a LOT more real-time data to deliver critical, sometimes life-saving, insight to people wherever they are located so they can see risks and opportunities right in front of them that they may have missed otherwise.

We start with a baseline of housing information and build upon it

We start with a baseline of housing information and build upon it

You're familiar with the idea of time travel, right? It's the idea that if you could beam yourself into the future you could see what's going to happen to you later in life. If you don't like the future that you see you could go back in time and make different choices today and create an alternate future that includes what you do want to see happening to you down the road.

For instance, if you could see invisible lead poisoning in a room you wouldn't put your child in it

Let's say you're a pregnant mother, you have a two-year old girl who's a chatterbox and getting into things all over the house. You and your partner are thinking you need more room for when the baby comes so you rent an apartment in Oakland, unpack, do some cleaning and prepare for the baby boy's arrival.

About a year after he's born you notice he can't hear you and your little girl doesn't talk as much anymore and she's not that curious about life. You take them to the doctor and she says you should test them both for lead poisoning. You don't even know what lead poisoning is or where they could've been exposed but you agree to do the blood tests. They both come back positive for lead in their blood at levels that have caused brain damage, stunted their growth, and created life-long disabilities for both of them.

This is a horrible story, and it happens every day, in Oakland, and in about 4000 other US cities.

A Public Data Utility would warn you, and everyone else, to stay away from this apartment so you never go inside and your kids are never exposed to lead poisoning and go on to live full, happy, lives.

One of the problems here is you can't see lead paint poisoning, which is where the majority of lead poisonings come from, because it's a heavy metal that used to be mixed into paint to make it dry faster - so lead poisoned paint just looks like paint.

How do you avoid things you can't see?

You can learn to identify physical patterns that occur when lead poison exists in an environment - like paint that's chipping or peeling off the outside or inside of older pre-1978 housing - but there are so many factors to consider.

You need real-time insight from a system that alerts you about invisible dangers so you don't walk right into hazardous situations that will cause damage to you and your family. Qualified service providers can also help protect your family from hidden threats because they have resources you'll need to deal with the situation at hand.

Our Public Data Utility consumes data from the past, mixes it with live data about the present moment, and combines that to predict what will happen in the future.  We know history repeats itself, but now it doesn't have to.

You can see what's happening around you and what came before and because of this insight you can see what will happen to you, right where you're standing, if you do not move from that position. The Public Data Utility informs you so your personal resilience is up-leveled and you can choose to alter the course you're currently on and create a different future.

In Oakland, more than 80% of the housing stock is pre-1978 which means most of it contains lead paint if it has not been certified as being lead-free.

Our utility aggregates and calculates many different type of housing data, health, transportation, census, education, and more as it's requested people from every community, to show what's going on in each neighborhood.

This way people are more individually prepared to stay safe, bounce back more quickly after sudden shocks, and discover new opportunities they might not have noticed otherwise.

More information on Open Data and Open Government

Here is some background information about the evolution of the Open Data / Open Government agenda, data transparency, and constituent volunteers who work to develop solutions for their communities and cities.

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What we do

Code for America uses the principles and practices of the digital age to improve how government serves the American public, and how the public improves government.

Since 2011, we’ve worked with thousands of tech industry professionals to help 100+ local governments serve their communities better.  Now we're working with government to make the most of our tax dollars to help millions of under-served Americans.

from Data.gov

Open Data: A History

April 4, 2013  By Adam Bode Bode

This term “open data” is becoming increasingly commonplace. That’s what Data.gov is all about. But what is open data? A new article in the Paris Tech Review offers a snapshot of how open data was born, its evolving purpose, and how it can make a difference in all our lives. “Open data” did not come out of thin air, and it’s interesting to discover its rich context.

While the term “open data” isn’t even 20 years old, the author puts the concept in a historical context; the idea that scientific research should be free to all was popularized by Robert King Merton in the early 1940s. Research (which produces data) should be shared freely for the common good.

Fast forward to the early 21st century. Scientific culture intersects with the burgeoning Internet/Information Technology society. By this time, scientists and even the general public take for granted that scientific research should be available for the public good; in fact, debates arise around length of patent protection for certain products due in part to the assumption that research data is a public resource.

In December 2007, in Sebastopol, California, a group of thought leaders gathered to discuss and define the concept of open public data. By this time, the open-source software movement was in full swing, with people collaborating, or “crowdsourcing,” software by using the Internet as their workspace. The product/software and its ongoing improvements were available for free and visible to everyone in real time via the Internet. Those who met in Sebastapol understood the Internet’s potential and the value of making data, particularly government data, understood and available as a public resource, just as our natural resources are shared for the common good. They actively promoted this idea.

Less than two years later, on his first day in office, President Obama signed the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, stating, Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset. My Administration will take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use.

That May, Data.gov was born. As we look forward to our fourth birthday next month, we have learned a great deal – and we’re still on the learning curve. In a few weeks, we will unveil a new catalog and look forward to your feedback on it.

In the meantime, check out “A Brief History of Open Data” in the Paris Tech Review.

Sally Ruth Bourrie of Phase One Consulting Group supports Outreach and Communications at Data.gov.

President Barack Obama's Declaration of Transparency

The White House

January 21, 2009

Transparency and Open Government


SUBJECT:      Transparency and Open Government

My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government.  We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.

Government should be transparent.  Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing.  Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset. My Administration will take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use. Executive departments and agencies should harness new technologies to put information about their operations and decisions online and readily available to the public. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public feedback to identify information of greatest use to the public.

Government should be participatory. Public engagement enhances the Government's effectiveness and improves the quality of its decisions. Knowledge is widely dispersed in society, and public officials benefit from having access to that dispersed knowledge. Executive departments and agencies should offer Americans increased opportunities to participate in policy making and to provide their Government with the benefits of their collective expertise and information. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public input on how we can increase and improve opportunities for public participation in Government.

Government should be collaborative.  Collaboration actively engages Americans in the work of their Government. Executive departments and agencies should use innovative tools, methods, and systems to cooperate among themselves, across all levels of Government, and with nonprofit organizations, businesses, and individuals in the private sector.  Executive departments and agencies should solicit public feedback to assess and improve their level of collaboration and to identify new opportunities for cooperation.

I direct the Chief Technology Officer, in coordination with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Administrator of General Services, to coordinate the development by appropriate executive departments and agencies, within 120 days, of recommendations for an Open Government Directive, to be issued by the Director of OMB, that instructs executive departments and agencies to take specific actions implementing the principles set forth in this memorandum. The independent agencies should comply with the Open Government Directive.

This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by a party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

This memorandum shall be published in the Federal Register.