Socrata Users Share Best Practices

June 02, 2020 by Oliver Wise & Justin Bruce

Socrata Users Share Best Practices

The response, recovery, and ultimate renewal from the COVID-19 crisis represents perhaps the most significant public policy challenge facing governments in a generation.

Data leaders play a critical role in how their communities can effectively and equitably respond to the public health emergency and recover from the economic implications of the crisis. While data has supported recovery in recent natural disasters, the scale and complexity of the COVID-19 crisis leaves government data leaders to write the playbook as they go. Best practices will emerge in real time as the crisis and recovery unfolds.

They don’t have to go at it alone.

In order to facilitate peer learning and rapid scaling of best practices, Tyler Technologies recently invited leading Socrata users to join the Tyler Technologies COVID-19 Peer Working Group.

This group of state and local chief data officers, chief technology officers, and performance management leaders exchange ideas and approaches to leveraging data to address pandemic-related challenges.

In our initial conversations, our working group members have identified several emerging themes common to government data leaders working during these unprecedented times: velocity, agility, and open first.

  • Velocity. The rapid pace of the coronavirus’ spread and the shocks to public service delivery infrastructure has forced data leaders and their stakeholders to innovate far faster than normal. To meet the needs of decision-makers, the public, and other stakeholders, data leaders have had to compress projects that would have otherwise taken months into days. For example, San Francisco’s CDO Jason Lally, a member of the working group, stood up a prototype of a data warehouse to track personal protective equipment in a weekend and had a full product in deployment after a week. A project of this magnitude would normally take several months.

  • Agility. State and local data leaders have had to show remarkable strategic agility to pivot priorities to address the urgent needs created by the COVID-19 crisis. This has meant reprioritizing other important projects that may have been in the works prior to the pandemic. For example, New Orleans CTO Jonathan Wisbey’s focus prior to the pandemic was to recover from a December 2019 cyberattack that crippled the city’s data infrastructure. When the pandemic hit, Wisbey pivoted to ensure city hall employees could effectively work remotely. He and his team were able to scale a VPN infrastructure in a matter of days to allow city workers to safely work from home.

  • Open first. Timely, authoritative, and accurate public data is one of the most important elements of a successful public health response. Many government data leaders are particularly proud of the efforts their organizations have made to quickly develop public-facing dashboards of COVID-19 public health trends. For example, Ramsey County’s Open Data Portal Coordinator Kristine Grill rapidly developed the Ramsey County COVID-19 Situation Update to share critical data on total confirmed COVID-19 cases, total cases hospitalized, total cases in ICU, and other vital metrics consumed by the public, the press, and policy-makers.

Government data leaders play a vital role in disaster response and recovery. The scale and pace of the COVID-19 pandemic has spotlighted the value of their contributions. As the Tyler Technologies COVID-19 Peer Working Group continues to convene, we look forward to sharing emerging best practices.

Oliver Wise and Justin Bruce co-chair the COVID-19 Peer Working Group. Oliver was the founding director of the city of New Orleans Office of Performance and Accountability, the city’s first data analytics team. Justin served as the first director of Innovation and Performance for the city of Jackson, Mississippi.

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