The Gallery: How Raleigh is building their open data solution

The Gallery: How Raleigh is building their open data solution

By: Jason Hibbets

The open government movement in Raleigh, North Carolina is moving forward—at a fast pace. The City of Raleigh announced the Open Raleigh initiative in 2012 when they passed an open government resolution. They continue to add new components, following their open source roadmap, creating a more transparent government and inviting citizen to participate.

Open Raleigh is an online repository with open data, web and mobile applications, and links to participatory tools and organizations. It’s part of Raleigh’s open source strategy focusing on transparency, collaboration, and improved access to information.

City governments shouldn’t work to write code or solve problems that are already solved—it’s redundant. Why reinvent the wheel when you can subscribe to a constant stream of updates or deploy a solution that has already solved the technological challenge at-hand?

Government IT departments are deploying solutions that already fix these problems. In this specific example, the City of Raleigh is successfully piecing together different technologies and taking a strategic approach to create a comprehensive, robust open data solution. Let’s take a look at the technical components of Open Raleigh that include products from ESRI, Socrata, Granicus, GovDelivery, and SeeClickFix.

ESRI and Socrata power the open data platform

The ESRI geoportal server is an open source product that enables discovery, use, and publishing of metadata for geospatial resources. It allows custom downloads of data using a map-based interface. ESRI is also used at the county and state level, which allows for seamless searching. Citizens, developers, and businesses can use almost 100 geospatial layers available through the geoportal.

The City of Raleigh announced their beta deployment of Socrata in March 2012. Socrata is being used to house other data sets and transform information assets such as geospatial data and unstructured content into consumable data.
More importantly, it allows citizens and other users to create visualization of the data. This makes the data more user-friendly and more useful to average citizens who don’t want to read tabular rows of data.

With the beta launch, the data portal includes data sets for crime, fire incidents, some GIS data for buildings, communities, and parking, some financial data, and some permit data. The IT staff continues to work with other departments to validate data and to strategically add new data sets that are important to the Raleigh community.

Granicus powers citizen engagement

The MyRaleigh Ideas! crowdsouring platform uses the Granicus CivicIdeas product. The city is used MyRaleigh Ideas! to solicit feedback and determine which open data sets were a priority for the community. They continue to gather feedback on new initiatives. Current conversations include forums for public work projects and the 2013-2014 budget.

GovDelivery makes email easy

GovDelivery helps government agencies create effective digital communications. Raleigh has deployed an effective email subscription solution called My Raleigh Subscriptions that allows citizens to opt-in to email updates of their choosing. From my own personal experience, it’s saved me a ton of duplicate emails. Citizens can choose from a variety of topics ranging from alerts to newsletters, meeting agendas to news releases, event information to crime alerts, and much more.

SeeClickFix is the Open311 solution

SeeClickFix is a way for citizens to report non-emergency problems to the city such as potholes, graffiti, or broken sidewalks. Behind the scenes, SeeClickFix uses the Open311 standard which is an effort to coordinate a standardized, open-access, read/write model for citizens to report non-emergency issues.

Citizens no longer need to hunt down a phone number or get bounced around from department to department. Once they see a problem, the can click to report it through a website or a mobile application, and the city will acknowledge the issue and channel it to the right department to get it fixed.

The impact

Open Raleigh is making a big difference for the citizen experience. We’ve talked about just a few of the tools that are changing how citizens can affect their surroundings and participate in their government. The door to a more inviting and participatory government is opening a little more each day with new solutions being implemented by the City and when citizens discover the power is shifting back to them.

Jason Hibbets is a project manager at Red Hat and the lead administrator for opensource.com. He has been with Red Hat since 2003.


The Gallery is a forum for ideas and examination of matters facing state and local government. Readers, members of the media, academics or the business community are invited to submit guest columns to bailey{at}civsourceonline{dot}com. Member of the public sector? We’re interested in hearing from you too. CivSource does not endorse the views presented in The Gallery, but offers them in an effort to present more diverse coverage. CivSource will review all submissions but does not guarantee publication of all works submitted.

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