How Data Kept Us Running in 2020

December 28, 2020 by Melissa Crowe Terry

How Data Kept Us Running in 2020

Throughout 2020, the pandemic tested the limits of state and local governments in unprecedented ways.

While public leaders managed the coronavirus response and recovery, data proved to be an integral piece of the solution. We saw an emphasis on the health of cities, counties, and states across the U.S. At the same time, it has helped validate investments in data programs.

As we head into the new year, we’re looking back on some of the best government data use of the year from the Tyler community and showcase how innovative uses of data helped keep their organizations running this year.

Dashboards emerged to support the tracking, reporting, and monitoring of CARES Act dollars.

New Jersey, Iowa, and Pierce County (WA) were at the forefront of leveraging open data and their internal resources to create easy-to-understand charts and visualizations to track CARES Act dollars.

Pierce County Budget Manager Julie Demuth said, “I honestly could not imagine going through this process without having the data available online in real time. It’d be like operating blindly, so to speak.”

Elections spurred new campaign finance apps.

Washington state launched a comprehensive campaign finance app that gives the public an easy-to-use way to visualize the state’s campaign finance data, drill down into maps, and share those findings. That data, which is reflected by the candidate’s campaign, is updated hourly.

“Visuals help data come alive, and the PDC is proud to pioneer this new tool that makes campaign finance reports approachable and useful to more people,” said Executive Director Peter Lavallee.

In addition, the cities of Oakland and San Francisco launched apps to give voters easy access to campaign finance information in their jurisdictions.

Chattanooga, Tennessee, tackled a data initiative focused on policing and racial equity.

Chattanooga’s effort combines public safety data with census demographics, information on recidivism reduction programs, neighborhood-based planning, and even the local budget. This holistic analysis will produce insights that help open a forum to create a safer, stronger, more resilient community.

U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services shared nursing home-related COVID data.

The publication of national nursing home data on CMS’s open data portal is the U.S. government’s initiative to share the full scale of the coronavirus’ impact on nursing home residents across the country. Since the launch this summer, all 15,000 nursing homes across the U.S. are required to report data on staff and resident COVID-19-related infections and deaths directly to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Ramsey County (MN) demystified assessor data.

By creating increased access to assessment data, particularly in the assessor’s report, Ramsey County can create more informed constituencies, which increase policy buy-in as well as faith in county staff and officials. More access to easy-to-understand information can clarify when property assessment appeals may be advisable or surface inequalities in the assessment process.

New Brunswick transformed its gender equality report.

This new format replaces a traditional paperback report and increases public accessibility. In all, New Brunswick’s report includes about 30 datasets with accompanying visualizations, and the city is on track add another 100 datasets in the next three months.

Buffalo, New York, published comprehensive COVID-19 resource center.

Buffalo’s resource center connects residents to a variety of data sources, including Johns Hopkins University and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and creates a centralized space for internal users and the public to access authoritative COVID-19 information.

“One of the issues faced by the city, health care providers, and emergency first responders, is misinformation that has been presented as fact,” said Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown. “It’s critically important that people get good information, accurate information, so they can make the proper health care decisions for themselves that have an impact, not only on their health, but their family members and their friends’ health, as well.”

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