DCStat: Data for digital democracy

Starting in mid-June, [the city of Washington] DC began releasing operational data from a variety of city agencies to the Internet, in several XML formats including RSS and Atom.


If you've ever visited Adrian Holovaty's award-winning ChicagoCrime.org, you can see what this might mean for Washington. Here's a critical difference, though. Holovaty had to devote a considerable amount of effort to screenscraping the Chicago Police Department's Citizen ICAM website in order to extract the data, and still more effort to geocode it. I know, because I've been there myself too many times, that while he was writing that screenscraper he was mentally screaming: "Just give me the data!"

DCStat is doing just that. The Atom and RSS feeds summarize activity, and all the details -- including latitude and longitude coordinates -- are included in DCStat's own XML format. Following the initial launch of the service request feed, new ones will appear at roughly two-week intervals throughout the summer and fall. These feeds will contain flows of raw operational data about crime (incidents, arrests, charges), property (real and vacant), housing code enforcement, business and liquor licensing. [Full story at InfoWorld.com]

The DCStat program was also the subject of last week's podcast with DCStat's director, Dan Thomas, and with DC CTO Suzanne Peck. This week Dan alerted me to the first real mashup based on DCStat's service request feed. I've also heard from Jim Willis, the director of eGovernment for Rhode Island, about their Flickr-like API for open government services. It's all good, bring it on!

If space in the magazine had permitted, here are parts of the podcast I would have quoted:

Suzanne Peck on cross-agency correlation:

If as a citizen the things I am most focused on are: Am I getting the services I'm paying for?, Am I safe?, Are my children well-educated? -- the answers to those questions don't come from any particular vertical agency, the answers come horizontally, in an integrated way, across a number of agencies, each of which serves up part of the answer.

Dan Thomas on democratic access to public information:

We're moving more towards a true democracy. This information has always been accessible, but it's typically been accessible to folks who have had the time and resources to go get it.

Suzanne Peck on measuring government's performance:

One of the principal candidates now running for mayor says that DCStat is the mechanism by which he is going to bring accountability to every leader and manager in the city.

Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2006/06/28.html#a1478