CIO Review >> Magazine >> December  2013 Government Technology Special issue

Socrata: Connecting Public-Sector Transparency And Performance Management

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Thomson Antony Data transparency is an essential quality of an effective open government. Not only can public-sector organizations learn by analyzing data on their performance, they can also improve the quality of life of the people they serve by sharing the information they collect on topics like public safety and school performance.

Kevin Merritt, Founder and CEO of Socrata, set out to change the way government works by offering a cloud-based, socially-connected software platform that makes public data more easily available to a range of audiences, including citizens, researchers, and businesses. Since its inception in 2007, Socrata has become a trailblazer in software entrepreneurship, serving illustrious clientele from the White House to the United Nations Development Programme. The company’s turnkey cloud services bring ease-of-use, scalability, speed of deployment, and lower costs to more than 80 customers in federal, state, local, and county governments, professional developers, NGOs, non-profit organizations, and citizen developers as well.

Socrata’s Open Data and Performance Management Solutions
The Socrata Open Data platform is designed to make it easy for non-technical users to rapidly publish and update data from spreadsheets, file systems, transactional databases, and other sources. The Socrata platform enables organizations to federate data to any portal that uses DCAT standards. Developers can also use the fully documented Socrata open data application programming interface (API) to create applications and mashups from any Socrata-powered website.

In addition to its open data platform solution, Socrata also offers GovStat, an industry-leading public performance management system. Public agencies can use GovStat to centralize and standardize the way they set goals, measure performance, and share that information with the public. Through a comprehensive set of data collection, management, and visualization tools, agency leaders can foster a culture of data-driven decision making—while ensuring citizens have access to important fiscal, community planning, and project performance information.

What Sets Socrata Apart?
Socrata is the only true platform solution that incorporates tools for transforming, publishing, managing, visualizing, and sharing data. Socrata also offers a fully open and documented API. And, with the Socrata API Foundry application, users can create custom, developer-ready APIs in a matter of minutes from any data set. The breadth of functionality, flexibility, and extensibility of the Socrata platform continues to be one of the company’s leading competitive advantages.

Proven Results
The power of Socrata’s solutions is evident in the experiences of its customers. The City and County of San Francisco (CCSF) is a great example. In 2012, CCSF decided to start using a Socrata Open Data Portal to standardize city data onto a single platform that would significantly improve internal efficiency. Previous to using the portal, CCSF was being flooded with service requests of all kinds but, in particular, they received requests from citizens and reporters for campaign finance data. During the 2012 election season, the CCSF Ethics Commission used the Socrata portal to publish campaign finance data in a machine-readable format that was updated daily. Greater accessibility to this data increased citizen engagement with the information. CCSF was also able to save time, improve transparency, and increase the accuracy of the campaign finance data it manages.

Results like these are why Socrata continues to be a leader in the open data movement, both in the U.S. and around the world. Socrata has customers in North America, South America, Europe, Africa, and Australia. The company plans to continue offering a high-performing, reliable, flexible platform that not only supplies powerful tools for data management, but grants full usability to non-technical and advanced users. Socrata seeks to strengthen its competitive advantage by enabling these users to create professional data visualizations easily, and by evolving its API to support mission-critical apps with better performance and increased flexibility.