Last week, the White House launched the Opportunity Project, an initiative aimed at leveraging federal and city data to improve urban economic mobility. GovEx joins more than a dozen nonprofit and private sector organizations to support this initiative. We’re making ourselves available to cities that we’re currently working with to help them add data to the platform and to benefit from utilizing the existing data and tools.
While the federal government and cities across the country have been busy opening data, it’s often hard to know what data is out there and how it could be used to address the challenges that America and Americans face. The Opportunity Project is aimed squarely at this obstacle: it inventories datasets that are likely to be useful for improving urban economic mobility from eight initial cities and the federal government, and explores some ways the data could be used by community organizations, nonprofits, and the private sector to expose the magnitude of the challenge and analyze the impact of actions that might move the needle on urban economic mobility.
Unlike Data.gov, the federal government’s open data portal, the goal of the Opportunity Project is not to release data. Rather, the White House and its Presidential Innovation Fellow (PIF) team are focusing on compiling federal and local data on the economic, transit, health, and crime challenges faced by urban communities in one place to encourage innovation and discussion around improving economic mobility and reducing socioeconomic disparities in cities.
There are a couple elements of the Opportunity Project that make it notable:
- The Opportunity Project is seeded with links to datasets from eight initial cities, including Baltimore; Detroit; Kansas City, Missouri; New Orleans; New York; Philadelphia; San Francisco; and Washington, DC, alongside an inventory of relevant federal data.
- In advance of the Opportunity Project release, the White House hosted a sprint with private sector and nonprofit developers (including Redfin, Zillow, GreatSchools, PolicyLink, Measure of America, Socrata, Esri, and others) to create tools using the city and federal data, thereby developing potential use cases for residents.
- Structurally, the Opportunity Project organizes data in a matrix structure, both horizontally across topic areas (transportation, environment, housing, education, employment, and others) and vertically by linking to data from multiple jurisdictions (the federal government and eight cities). This is a welcome integrated approach to using data to solve cross-cutting problems.
Are there ways that the Opportunity Project could be improved? Yes. The website currently only provides links to existing local open data portals and there are no standards suggesting how local data should be collected or released. This means that the parks data for Washington, DC is different from the parks data for Philadelphia. Further, the current tools are somewhat limited: most use local data from one city to create something like an opportunity index and visualize it spatially.
But the promise for the project and the thoughtful approach it employs is apparent. By collecting links to datasets relevant to urban mobility that transcend boundaries and bringing together nonprofits, community leaders, and companies to interact with that data, the White House has leveraged its convening role in an effort to rethink how data can be used to improve mobility for marginalized populations in our cities. It’s an exciting step forward toward broader integration of open data across jurisdictional and topical boundaries to help analyze and solve problems. We look forward to being a part of this initiative and watching it develop.
GovEx is available to support any of the cities we’re currently working with to add their data to the Opportunity Project inventory and to benefit from utilizing the tools that developers and companies create from this data. So if you’re a city already working with GovEx and interested in learning more, reach out to your point of contact!