At Fahrenheit 212, we are driven by a shared desire to make things better and to make better things. Fahrenheit X, our annual pro-bono program, is one manifestation of this goal. Under the program, we partner with a mission-driven organization each summer to support them in addressing a critical social innovation challenge. In the summer of 2017, we partnered with the NYC Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics (MODA) to support the City’s Open Data Initiative. While many cities furnish data to their citizens, NYC is unique in that it is legally mandated to share information produced and used by City government with the public.
Our challenge was to make the city’s Open Data, often seen as technical and abstract, more accessible and engaging to the public. We first set out to understand how New Yorkers were using Open Data by conducting interviews with civil servants, academics, students, activists, and technology entrepreneurs. For those who weren’t using Open Data, we sought to understand why. We realized that the best way to drive citizen engagement with NYC Open Data was by inspiring an “Aha!” moment, in which residents realize the enormous value they can unlock in their own lives, and those of their neighbors by using Open Data.
To help create this “Aha!” moment at scale, we designed a project gallery to showcase the incredible work that’s already been done with Open Data, making potential applications more tangible, and allowing newer users to see their own goals reflected in those projects. We conducted user tests on 3 variants of our gallery: a version that put data first, a version that put outcomes first, and a version that put residents’ narratives first. User feedback conclusively showed that the narrative-driven direction was the most relatable. When the project gallery highlighted users’ personal stories and processes, it conveyed why and how everyday New Yorkers could use Open Data in their lives.
We’re proud that the Open Data Gallery was launched in March 2018 in celebration of International Open Data Day. At the time, the gallery displayed examples of how NYC data has been used to address urban problems. These projects focused on topics as diverse as city zoning, rent prices, and even traffic during the Pride March! We’re very excited for the gallery to grow into an inspiring home for the projects, analyses, and businesses New Yorkers build with Open Data as more people learn and engage with it.
Data and insights are the fuel that drives innovation- that’s why we believe that Open Data will galvanize the local innovation economy. In addition to increasing government transparency, Open Data allows everyone from academics to entrepreneurs to better understand the environment they live in, to generate new insights, and to develop new products, services, and businesses for their home city. The Open Data Project Gallery is a leap forward in making information more accessible to those who would build and create with it. We’re proud to have helped lay the foundation for a robust Open Data ecosystem that will fuel new inspiration, new insights, and new inventions for New Yorkers. In making a better home for Open Data online, we hope to give more people the tools to make New York City better, too.