Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Online Center to Serve as One-Stop Shop for Data

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Online Center to Serve as One-Stop Shop for Data

Article excerpt

An online regional data center soon will serve as the central place for finding such information as the top cause of death in Allegheny County, vacant properties in a particular neighborhood or whether that guy you might hire is indeed a registered master plumber.

And planners hope it paves the way for still-to-be created apps that will make that kind of information more useful, whether for crime maps or for text alerts about trash pickup or recycling.

To that end, Pittsburgh and the county last week received a $1.8 million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation to fund the first 18 months of the joint effort to create the data portal that also will incorporate the expertise of the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University.

City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak, who pushed to pass open-data legislation earlier this year that committed the city to establishing a data portal - and considering public information covered by the state Right-to-Know law "open by default" - said a comprehensive site will not come quickly.

"I don't know if the public realizes how big an undertaking that is," Ms. Rudiak said.

City and county departments use a variety of different technologies, databases and systems, including paper records that need to be digitized.

Once that is done, officials said, data can get analyzed faster and tasks are less likely to be duplicated. Some information, such as the plumber license and property assessment searches, is already available online but in multiple locations.

A beta version of the portal is set for launch early next year with pilot data sets from the city. Planners hope that once established, it will be recognized as a one-stop shop for residents and visitors.

"Imagine if you are an outsider, and you can go to one place to get information about Allegheny County," said Jennifer Liptak, county Executive Rich Fitzgerald's chief of staff. …

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