Web-based apps simplify access to government data

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Have you ever wondered if that pothole down the street has been reported to the city? Are you looking to connect with local programmers and tech enthusiasts on the West Side? Do you know your son or daughter’s Chicago Public School tier?

Here are some of the newest web-based applications created by local programmers that could be of value to Austin and other West Side residents. Members of the Meetup group Open Government Chicago demoed the apps at its March 28 meeting.

  • Chicago Potholes: University of Chicago web developer Tom Kompare created Chicago Potholes as a personal side project. The app displays the open pothole requests on a city map. Users can turn ward boundaries on or off on the map and search by address to see open pothole requests in a given area. Kompare’s site refreshes daily with the open pothole request data from Chicago’s 311 database. He said the map may not show all potholes because some are not reported and some residents report potholes to their alderman, not to 311.
  • Chicago Public School Tiers:  Simply type in your address to find your tier. The web site explains the CPS tier system and tells what qualifies a person to be placed in one of CPS’ four tiers across the city. Most selective enrollment schools in Chicago use the tier system. Check out the web site for more information. The school tier app was created by Derek Eder, Forest Gregg and Juan-Pablo Velez.

In December, AustinTalks shared Chicago ClearStreets, an app designed by Eder and Gregg. Active during snow events, this app helps residents find out which area streets have been plowed.

Members have also created apps to assist programmers with sharing data:

  • OpenChicago.org – This applications lets Chicago users find other programmers in their ward. Scott Robbin, the app’s creator, said it’s good to know your neighbors, and this web site can help facilitate sharing and collaboration for projects. You log into OpenChicago by using your login from the social coding web site Github.com. Signing up for the site puts you on the map as a Chicago programmer. You’ll also receive e-mails from programmers in your ward.
  • MetroChicagoData.org:  This federated data site pulls information from Chicago, Cook County and Illinois. It’s a way to obtain datasets on one web site instead of going to each level of government for the various sets of information. Datasets on the site are grouped in various categories, such as buildings, houses and property; business; economic development; education; and the environment.

Cook County’s Chief Technology Officer Greg Wass said the metro Chicago site blends data from across levels of government to fill in information gaps. He said users of the site have the ability to rate and leave comments on various datasets and message the dataset owner directly.

OpenGov is a group of local data and programming enthusiasts with a focus on making government data more transparent and open.

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