CT Open Data Fuels Pandemic Decisions
September 23, 2021 by
The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the immediate need for accurate information and a way to share it. State agencies had to develop new systems to manage large amounts of public health data and provide timely information to residents to equip communities and individuals to make better, more informed decisions.
The state of Connecticut had already become a leader in publishing information through its open data portal, first launched in 2014. The platform allows Connecticut state agencies to make their information publicly available in a machine-readable format. The Open Data team works with data publishers across agencies to help them make their information available in this way.
The open data portal provided centralized access to data and dashboards that complimented the information found on the state’s COVID-19 portal. The easy-to-understand datasets kept state agencies and the public informed and engaged as they faced the coronavirus pandemic.
A Conversation with Pauline Zaldonis
The Tyler Tech Podcast recently featured Pauline Zaldonis, a key member of Connecticut’s open data team. Zaldonis discussed how the open data portal empowered decision makers and residents with essential information about the pandemic.
“In addition to making the data available through the portal, we also were able to provide some visualizations and some context around the different metrics,” Zaldonis said. “The open data portal has become like a hub for bringing together all the different data resources relating to COVID, centralizing them in one place.”
In her conversation with Tyler’s Beth Amann, Zaldonis described the state’s challenges, the early stages of data aggregation, and how the state used newly accessible metrics to guide decision making for local school districts. Following are just a few highlights:
When the first cases of COVID-19 arose in Connecticut, the state didn't have a system in place for publishing health data publicly every day. At the end of March 2020, the public health department published metrics, including the number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID-19, in a daily report that was shared as a PDF document. With a massive demand for up-to-date information about the pandemic, the state desperately needed an online site to host data centrally; something more user-friendly, current, and transparent than a static PDF.
The Connecticut Open Data team first collaborated with the Department of Public Health to move from PDF reports to datasets on the open data portal. Organizing the data so that it was searchable, up-to-date, and practical took some beyond-the-box thinking. Using the portal’s data story tool made displaying expanding datasets easy. Data stories also offered important background information to help users understand the context of the information and find additional resources.
Publishing public health metrics in this way guided decision making for local school districts, as well as families and municipal leaders. Key initiatives included a school learning model indicators dashboard that informed in-person, hybrid, or remote approaches to learning in the 2020-2021 school year.
Robust COVID-19 reporting in Connecticut continues. Broader data-driven initiatives in the state are just beginning, as new opportunities to aggregate and share information to empower stakeholders arise.