Grant To Fund City And County Open Data Initiative

Sep 15, 2015

Pittsburgh has never had a regional data center, which makes the city late to joining the open data world.
Credit Roger W / Flickr

City and county officials got the green light to assemble a team of data experts to make local government more efficient and customer-friendly for residents, track spending and projects and create a regional data center. 


“Making sure the city and county treat their information as an asset and make that information publicly available," said Bob Gradeck, project manager for the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center.

A $1.8 million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation is funding the first 18 months of the effort, allowing for two major initiatives through county and city governments, the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University starting Oct. 15.

The joint Government Solutions Engineering team of data experts will be tasked with optimizing government workflow, assessing public spending via performance-based budgeting and tracking property tax scofflaws.

Gradeck said people across all levels of government will be using information more effectively in their work. For example, someone in the field can record when a pothole is filled or someone at mayor’s office who wants to know about how long it’s taking to provide services or how effective they are can look at the data in order to get their answers.

The Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center, an expansive database maintained by Pitt's Center for Social and Urban Research, will provide residents with an open data portal that can host information from local governments, nonprofits, civic organizations and academic institutions.

“We’re going to have a lot of conversations about data; we’re going to provide a lot of documentation," Gradeck said. "And then with the data providers, whether they’re the city, the county or non-profit organizations or universities, the infrastructure is going to allow them to also be publishers.”

Experts at Pitt and CMU will offer advice on the center’s record management, design, data visualization and security. Gradeck said that at its best, the initiative will streamline data collection and management to better inform local government.