Denton, Texas has launched a new open data portal that will be powered by OpenGov technology. Denton, a city of just over 100,000, is the first to implement the new open data offering which includes an integrated cloud platform for budgeting, reporting, and open data. The partnership was announced today at the Code for America Summit.
Denton was recently chosen to join the What Works Cities Initiative, a project supported by the Bloomberg Philanthropies, that pushes cities to develop data-driven governing models. As CivSource has previously reported, cities that are included in the project are developing a range of open data roadmaps in order to improve service delivery and provide more information about government to local residents.
“This portal is part of our work with What Works Cities,” explains Melissa Kraft, Chief Technology Officer for the City of Denton, in an interview with CivSource. “It was important to us to have a tool that works on an open source platform and also includes dashboards so that we could monitor and update our progress.”
Denton already provides quarterly updates on city business to residents, but those updates were released as hundred page PDFs. With the portal, the city will be able to provide quarterly updates in machine-readable format. “We can also include visualizations and narratives to go alongside the data, which was a big deal to us,” Kraft says. “The additional context will allow us to provide better information and tell a story about what’s happening in the city.”
OpenGov’s co-founder Nate Levine tells CivSource that the Denton project is emblematic of how the company plans to approach open data. “Others in this space have decided to focus solely on solutions for large urban areas and that’s one approach. We think it’s important to have a solution that works for mid-sized cities. We also wanted to put together a solution that doesn’t just do open data for the sake of open data. We think it’s important to offer a product that provides context and doesn’t require individuals to have a lot of technical ability in order to interact with it.”
So far the portal includes information on Denton’s demographics, housing indicators, and public safety issues with more data sets to be added in the future. Kraft says the portal is one part of a broader set of digital initiatives that will help the City Council make better decisions and will also modernize the city itself. Last year, Denton rolled out free public wifi around a handful of anchor institutions including the train station, civic center and public library. The city also helps to support a local startup incubator that brings together local small businesses, technologists and Denton’s university populations for economic development.