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At a collaborative workspace in Uptown later this month, developers will dig into a range of public data on elections and business filings that Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is releasing in new formats. In an online message board, “Capitol Code” participants already have suggested creating a directory of Minnesota manufacturers, or a tool to easily report and look up fraudulent solicitations.
“When you ask out loud to the citizens, ‘Hey, what are your ideas?’ and then you bring in data from a number of different places, the real objective is the stuff that you can’t even imagine,” Ritchie said.
“Really what this is doing is it’s transforming the way in which a government performs,” says Ian Kalin, open data manager for Socrata, a Seattle-based company that works with governments across the country to open data sets and store them online. He estimates that more than 100 governments in the U.S. have launched open data initiatives, mostly in the past five years.
Socrata works with Chicago, which has released nearly 1,000 data sets. Developers there have created apps that allow the public to dig into detailed crime statistics, research the most active lobbyists, locate vacant buildings and track city legislation. Other data help researchers evaluate after-school programs or track health trends across the city, said developer Derek Eder, who started a business from crunching public data.
“Who in the city of Chicago would have ever thought that you could use the data that way?” Eder said. “But the fact that it was released, and that it’s free for people to use, makes it all the more easy for people to take the data and then do something really fascinating with it.”
Eric Roper • 612-673-1732