iSchool Alumnus Launches DataCuse, Providing Public Access to City Data

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Last week, the City of Syracuse announced the launch of a public data portal, DataCuse, that provides open access to batches of city data. The new tool is part of the Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner’s open data policy, to make more data about city government and its operations open and accessible to the public. DataCuse can be accessed at data.syrgov.net.

The first datasets released by the city address infrastructure and housing, and include information about individual property parcels, properties with lead risks, vacant properties, road ratings, potholes, water main breaks, and requests made to CityLine, the city’s customer service portal. The city plans to releasing more data on these topics and additional topics monthly.

“Open data is the way forward in innovating city government, using data-driven decision making to craft better public policy to deliver more efficient results for Syracuse residents and businesses,” said Mayor Miner. “Using this portal, residents, academics, and agencies will be able to access and assess data about city operations, learning more or developing their own solutions to urban challenges.”

Data can be downloaded in various file formats including API and CSV. Users can also examine data visualizations created by city staff or create their own.

Much of the work behind making the data accessible to the public was done by School of Information Studies (iSchool) alumnus Sam Edelstein ’07 G’15, the city’s Chief Data Officer. 

Sam Edelstein
Sam Edelstein

“An open data portal is exciting because people in the community have access to the data that the city collects and creates, and they can better understand what their government does every day and can ask questions of the data,” Edelstein explained. “Anyone who uses DataCuse should check out the visualizations that have already been built and then try to create some projects on their own.”

In order to make DataCuse work, Edelstein and his team needed to do several things. “First, we had to identify the data that we put onto the portal, including getting advice from the Mayor, department heads, as well as community members. Then we needed to clean the data and document it to make sure people understand what everything means,” Edelstein said. “Next we needed to make sure there was nothing sensitive in the data that wouldn’t be appropriate to share publicly, and then we built data pipelines to push data to the portal automatically every day, week, or month depending on need. Finally, we visualized the data at a high level and told people about it so they will use it for their own purposes.”

With the launch of the public data portal, Edelstein is hoping that members of the academic community at Syracuse University will be able to use the information for projects and research.

“We have talented students and faculty at Syracuse. When I was a student, I oftentimes used data from other cities for my projects,” Edelstein recalled. “Now as the Chief Data Officer for the City of Syracuse, I want people to use our data, not data from other cities. We have plenty of challenges in Syracuse where data analysis can be an important part of the solution.”

Edelstein hopes that providing easy access to data for students and faculty will generate research questions and projects between the University and the city.

“We’re open to input from the community on this project, too,” said Edelstein. “We want to know what other data people would like to see.”