Welcome to Open Data Buffalo, the City's official open data program that makes public information publicly available for free in easily accessible formats.
The City's open data journey began in May 2013 when I welcomed a senior global team of IBM executives to Buffalo as part of an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant to identify new ways to use technology to create a smarter, stronger Buffalo. One of their key long-term recommendations was to "implement open data and data sharing." With this goal identified, I tasked my executive team to keep an eye out for opportunities to build capacity to achieve IBM's long-term vision of open data in Buffalo.
Buffalo: A What Works City
Then, in April 2015, such an opportunity arose when Bloomberg Philanthropies launched What Works Cities, an initiative to help 100 mid-sized American cities enhance their use of data and evidence to improve services, inform local decision-making and engage residents. Watch the video to the right to learn more about this important and groundbreaking initiative.
In June 2015, my Administration submitted an application packet to be a member city of the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities Initiative. In May 2016, the City and Bloomberg Philanthropies signed a Memorandum of Understanding.
Since then, guided by experts from Johns Hopkins University, the Sunlight Foundation and Results for America, the City has made great strides in building the capacity to effectively open up our data.
Open Data Policy
In consultation with experts from the Sunlight Foundation, the City drafted an open data policy and put it online for public comment in January 2017. The policy garnered 95 votes of support and over 100 comments from citizens. Strengthened by these public comments, I signed the policy into effect earlier this year. Click on the picture below to read the City of Buffalo Open Data policy.
Open Data Governance Committee
Data liaisons have been appointed by the commissioners of the major City departments to sit on the Open Data Governance Committee and manage their department's participation in the Open Data Buffalo program. Over the past several months, they have worked to identify potential publishable City datasets.
Open Data Portal
In February 2017, the City released an Request for Proposals for an open data portal. After a review process that included input from local civic tech enthusiasts, the City selected Socrata, a market leader in making existing government data discoverable, usable, and actionable. Kevin Merritt, founder and CEO of Socrata visited Buffalo in August to kick off our partnership.
Why Open Data?
Enhancing Data-Driven Decisionmaking
When running a large organization like a multinational corporation, a nonprofit organization, or a municipal government, knowledge is power.
Raw data are the building blocks of knowledge and we use these raw materials to build understanding of subjects and situations and gain insights that help us allocate resources to build a better Buffalo, block by block. For example, the visualization to the right uses 311 service requests data to quickly and clearly show us how many service requests for "garbage tote replacement" have been closed this year. Harnessing data this way helps my Administration determine what areas of the City are experiencing what problems and how best to address issues.
Using open data, executive and legislative leadership will be able to see information on specific types of 311 cases, at specific times, by specific addresses, reducing the time and effort of transferring large amounts of information within City Hall. Also, having readily available data about police incidents, housing violations, fire incidents, and 311 calls will give departments the ability to pinpoint areas of Buffalo most in need of city services.
The Open Data Initiative will help every department who utilizes it to share their success stories. By opening up data on City work and functions, citizens will be able to see, in a concrete way, all the work that the City does every single day to make Buffalo a great place to live, work, and play. Open data will be a tool for promoting public trust by giving citizens greater insight in the activities of government and every department will have the ability to highlight the activities and accomplishments that matter to them by embedding visualizations from the portal into their webpages.
As we increase transparency through open data, the City has also set safeguards and controls in place to ensure that access to protected and/or sensitive information is blocked.
Complementing Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) Requests
Open Data Buffalo will proactively disseminate public information that is frequently requested through the FOIL process, thus reducing staff time and resources dedicated to fulfilling these time-consuming and duplicative requests for data. It will also cut down on calls and call time of information requests. Citizens and researchers can be directed to the open data portal to receive the information they desire.
One open data release has the potential to address multiple requests for information that can be repetitive and costly to respond to if addressed on an individual basis.
Driving Internal Efficiencies
Open Data Buffalo will also drive innovation and efficiency throughout all of City Hall by making it easier for City Hall employees to obtain data held across separate departments. Proactive online posting of public data gives internal users full access.
Data sharing across departments will improve workflows, reduce or eliminate the need to request and fulfill internal requests for data, end unnecessary duplicative data collection, and allows agencies to utilize data already collected by other departments instantaneously without creating a copy of the dataset which can lead to multiple versions of the same dataset being utilized by different departments.
Open Data Buffalo can also increase government capacity at low cost. Connecting external users with government data helps provide more oversight, idea generation, and data analyses than City Hall could accomplish alone. What government is capable of doing with its own data can be complemented by private sector access to government data. Making data easily accessible to application developers, researchers, cartographers, etc. can drive innovation by letting the public build smartphone apps, insight, and visualizations on top of our data. We can then showcase any of their work to the larger public.
Open data can also fuel business development and job growth. Small businesses may start-up using government data in combination with other information to offer new services to consumers. Innovators can transform wholesale government data into products and services of value to the citizenry. City leaders can work closely with these entrepreneurs to find the solutions that the governments don’t have the time or resources to create.
I welcome you to explore the data currently on the portal. Visualize it, download it, develop with it, and share it with your coworkers, friends, or colleagues. Use it to gain a better understanding of City operations and see what is happening in your neighborhood.
Going forward, the City's Open Data Governance Committee will continue to identify and upload publishable City data. If there is certain data that you would like to see published on Open Data Buffalo, click "Suggest a Dataset" in the header bar.
The map to the right shows fire hydrant locations in Buffalo. As Open Data Buffalo matures, more and more rich datasets like this one will appear on the site. Check back every so often to see what's new!
Thank you for taking the time to visit Open Data Buffalo. It is my hope that it becomes a beneficial resource for all who make Buffalo a great place to live, work, and play.