There is a plethora of data, somewhat compiled and made freely available on the web. A large chunk of this data is civic data: education, social welfare, demographic and the like. This data can be assembled into open source products that can help states, cities, municipalities, nonprofit organizations and citizens make decisions that will positively impact their immediate neighborhood.
The dirty little secret about data analysis is that it rarely, in and of itself, yields facts. Data analysis almost always starts with a hypothesis that is proven or disproven with some degree of statistical math application. So, it seems very factual.
We would challenge, data points are placed in a determined context and evaluated with a point of view that is colored red, yellow or green. “Point of View” is a very important component in data analysis. Civic data in particular, should have many points of view – created through the lens of teams of individuals with varied demographic experiences – each providing a unique context.
This reimagined aspect of the data is the germinating seed for innovation. It is the point where practitioners and experiential subject matter experts can influence eventual systems and products which will make everyday lives more efficient, more effective, and more directly impacted by technological innovation.
Innovation starts with data becoming information – and great information initiates great innovation!
By grabbing civic data and giving it a new context and point of view, we can highlight alternative correlations and determine new outcomes that were previously unidentified. For example, in the City of Petersburg, we ran data to correlate to workforce development. Traditionally, municipalities link workforce development directly to educational achievement. We segmented the data into zip codes (an immutable, lowest denomination for geolocating civic demographics) and found that shelter security, healthcare, food security, and transportation from ages 0 to 21 had a direct impact on the development of a workforce from that zip code. We could argue that it has a greater impact than education, but we will stop just short of that, as we were unable to run the test with sanctioned civic data. We relied on free data for the purposes of making the point: open source civic data can revise seemingly factual conclusions to yield information that can positively impact local, socially important decision-making.