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Using data and community engagement to improve

efficiency and resident quality of life.

What is MDI?

Milwaukee Data Initiative (MDI) is a

local cooperative founded in 2011.
Focused on innovation, MDI advocates
for open civic data to help local
governance respond to the needs of its
community, spotlights homegrown
startups centered on open data, and
coordinates with local nonprofits to
host educational co-working events for
individuals of all skill levels.
We host quarterly idea shares, and a
yearly civic hackathon.

Why Open Data Started in MKE

Technology is a driver of efficiency, however when it
comes to civic and social data technology was holding us

No easy way for concerned citizens to help

No funding support for these efforts
Data reporting requirements all over the board
No data interoperability standards
No understanding of data interoperability
Spending money on apps that had poor functionality
Not focused on iteration and lean, agile ops

MDI Principles
All systems must be interoperable
(able to share data)
Data should be timely and accurate
(NOT static in a PDF, Image or even a map)
Systems should use open standards to share data
(dont make a new standard data format if one exists)
Open data should be usable for any legal purpose
(create opportunity for new products and services)

Big data is a differentiator right


Data science and open data are the

future of government

How government is sometimes seen.

What government can be.

We have to accept that technology

governance in government does not
usually keep pace with the market.

The change required:

Move to an innovation model.
In what universe do we
always get things right
the first time?
How is it possible to set
requirements, create a
design, write code, test
and implement and do
that over 1 year and not
have to change it once
we finish?

The change required:

Find/foster your community

Government needs a safe place to

innovate, iterate and foster
communication with residents.

Case in Point: MCTS

Started off spending $30K (possibly more) on a poorly designed
iOS app in 2013
Organizationally fought against publishing open data
Released real-time bus data June 2014 (licensing fees and setup
Within 3 months, 2 commercial transit apps and 3 locally developed
apps were available on the App/Play stores at $0 additional
cost/investment from the County.
and still many citizens dont know about this service.

That is what hackathons and technology

meetups provide: learning, sharing, marketing
and low-risk doing.

Data drives discussion, informs change

Understand the world around us and identify challenges.
-maps, analysis
Inform and motivate citizens to action.
-maps, reports, research
Data is used to identify problems, realize solutions and affect
positive change.
-Social Trends

Only if technologists and citizens have

easy access to data so they can
use/present it in an informative way.

Open data makes it easier

Accurate, timely data can provide trend information.
Larger datasets can improve analysis.
Easy access to data means more people can help.
Smart cities use data as a platform to build solutions.
Data is most effective when it is accessible to everyone.


With open data/hackathons, what risks should I be mitigating?

Public perception

make sure the public is informed and the process is transparent

make sure they know this is a place to experiment
track and display performance metrics, even if something fails

Data security

only use de-identified information

for real-time access, use APIs


tie into local funding sources and initiatives (e.g. talent dev)

System/Personnel resource use

utilize external intermediaries whenever possible to limit system resource


Existing laws, policies, personnel and procedures

check to make sure there arent rules against

prep your team!


What have we been able to do?

National Day of Civic Hacking (June)

5 years running
40-65 attendees per year
Ideathon or hackathon format
Each event generates at least 6 ideas and 2 new products

Meetups (monthly to quarterly)

only use de-identified information

for real-time access, use APIs

Applications Built, Projects Connected

tie into local funding sources and initiatives (e.g. talent dev)


Milwaukee is getting national attention

Open data is being used in many other cities, we need to compete!

Vacant Voices

MKE Data Haus (scrapers)


How could you measure effectiveness?


# of attendees
# of events
Event/web site analytics
Expertise of attendees


# of users
# of data calls

Apps Built (hours invested not by govt)

Hours invested (not by govt)

# of apps cuilt (not by govt)

Perception and Feedback

What is the perception of these new services (1-10)

What is the likelihood of referral to use these new tools (1-10)


Get out of the stone age with policy and


Free your CIO up to have budgetary


Get yourself a CTO/CDO that is public

facing and a community builder

Publish your data in a standard format

A collection of data, usually presented in tabular form.

Explain how to use your data (context)

How do you foster this happening?

Coordinate with your local tech meetup groups
Coordinate with local tech industry and initiatives
Personnel time

MDI Resources
MDI Example Notebook:
MDI Web Site and Blog:
MDI Group Forum (Google Group):!forum/milwaukeedata
MDI Twitter Feed:
MDI Facebook Page:

Thank you!
Twitter: @datamke
Web Site: