Who’s Using Data in Madison, Wisconsin?

Results of our collaboration with Sunlight Foundation are public.

Many city governments are “opening” their official government data—making it readily available, so that everyday citizens can use it to solve everyday problems. But there’s a hitch, as I wrote about last November: Success isn’t just about opening the data. It’s about meaningfully connecting the right data to the people that can use it.

Today, I’m pleased to share a new story of how one city is seeking to do just that. Reboot, Sunlight Foundation, and the City of Madison, Wisconsin have been collaborating in recent months to understand how Madison can improve its “data to action” ecosystem. Specifically, our goal was to find opportunities for the city to better align the data it releases (and the support it provides) with the needs of community groups focused on neighborhood development issues.

Along with Sunlight, we conducted interviews with 36 people, including local activists and community representatives; academics; city staff from multiple departments; local media, direct service community-based organizations, and large nonprofits. We synthesized their responses, looking for themes and patterns to pinpoint where the city’s open data resources could make a difference.

Sunlight’s report on that work is now available online, including a new set of user personas, valuable tools for helping governments understand who those “everyday citizens” really are, so they can match the city’s data offerings to their needs.

These personas are part of our growing body of research into practical applications of data in people’s lives. As the Sunlight Foundation put it:

While our engagement with Madison will focus on one specific opportunity, this process is showing the city’s team how they can better connect to the information needs and experiences of residents in the future. As Madison continues to support opportunities for the community use of data, either around complete neighborhoods or other issues in the future, we hope city staff will remain engaged and enthusiastic about resident engagement around open data.

And we hope that enthusiasm will spread to cities everywhere.

Read the Sunlight Foundation’s full post—including detailed user personas like the “City Staffer” and the “Disseminator”—at the Sunlight Foundation’s blog.

Futher reading.