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Politics & Government

County Information Portal First Step in Larger Information Sharing Effort

Allegheny County has launched an online information portal that will put in one place information from various departments.

“You can go into the Health Department, look at their air quality index, you can look at the courts as far as their records, of course we have the property assessment records, there’s treasury data,” said William McKain, Allegheny County manager.

Such portals have been used in other cities, according to McKain.

“San Francisco, New York – they’ve done it,” he said, “citizens want information, they take information and create their own apps. For example in New York City they released some data and some of the citizens there created an app [showing] where all the water fountains are on all the blocks for people that walk.”

In Allegheny County, he said the data can be used either to satisfy curiosity or for larger research purposes, in addition to simply adding a layer of transparency.

“We can tell you down at the M.E. [medical examiner’s] office what trends there might be,” said McKain. “The Allegheny County Health Department with Dr. Hacker is a sleeping giant, they actually are going to release enough data to address some of the needs that we have in this region.”

This is just the beginning, according to McKain. He said the county is working with the City of Pittsburgh and this portal is the first step toward a joint open data effort that will include the two entities in conjunction with the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. Funded by a grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, the ultimate goal is to build joint technology infrastructure that will lead to greater transparency and more efficiency in local government.