Who: a team of changemakers
A small, scrappy team backed by California Community Foundation has spent the last few years punching above its weight class, working to catalog and coalesce the open data for and about the 10 million Angelenos living in Los Angeles County.
Since 2013, we have explored, imagined, investigated, researched, and dreamed about the possibilities and power of open data combined with meaningful stories, all with the aim of establishing the first and only platform to gather all of Los Angeles County's open data into one place.
We've interviewed data journalists and data practitioners, surveyed and spoken with data publishers, performed a landscape analysis of data-focused initiatives, assembled and curated thousands of datasets, connected with other open data proponents, explored opportunities for partnerships, highlighted important open data projects across the county, constructed an initial test site, run through a series of beta tests, and established the open source, open data tool for change that you're looking at right now. You're welcome.
What: our technology
The LA Counts site is built with CKAN, a powerful open-source, open data platform that provides tools to streamline publishing, sharing, finding and using data. Free, open source, and open data, LA counts is replicable, portable and above all, transparent.
LA Counts chose CKAN over other proprietary open data platforms for several reasons: its international acceptance; its open source foundation; and its existing worldwide community. If you’d like to contribute to LA Counts’ CKAN software development, please visit our GitHub repository.
Our current harvesting technique limits us to sharing data from open data portals. We'd like to share even more: we'd like to highlight publicly available private data but we need that data to be hosted somewhere in order to point to it. Here's where you, the LA Counts community, come in. Do you have data that you'd like to share publicly? Have you made FOIA requests for data? Where is is stored? Let us know, Suggest a dataset!
When: The time is now
Ultimately, LA Counts is a community tool—built, managed and strengthened by the people who use it. In these critical early days, your participation will determine the success of this effort. Help by identifying new resources and suggesting datasets to add to those already available. Drop us a note to recommend ways to make this platform even more useful. And, of course, share your experiences with others as you put LA Counts data to work.
Open data platforms provide the public with powerful lenses through which different insights about government and industry models and actions can be revealed. Through them publicly available data becomes accessible, data providers can be held accountable, and advocates, activists, funders and policymakers can make better, more well-informed decisions.
Where: Los Angeles County
How much do you know about Los Angeles County? Sprawling over 4000 square miles, LA County is home to over 10 million residents—our population is greater than 42 different states. Yes, states. LA County boasts 88 cities and numerous unincorporated areas. That means we have 88 mayors and 88 separate governments—all tucked into one county.
While most residents are familiar with the seemingly ubiquitous Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), unlike other large metropolitan areas, we have multiple school districts: 93 of them are spread throughout the county. We're also blessed with a population that includes different races, ethnicities and subethnicities. And collectively we speak over 200 different languages.
In short, the county is a maze of bureaucracy, filled with hundreds of disconnected, overlapping, and sometimes competing agencies working for Angelenos.
But what does this have to do with data? Read on.
Why: our needs
Despite its massive population, size and level of need, Los Angeles County is arguably the least well funded major metropolitan area in the United States. We simply don’t know enough about our county, nor do we have enough open data about it to tell its complete story. Without accessible and defensible data, funders and decision-makers are hesitant to invest in issues affecting our county and everyone misses out.
We can change this! Demographic data, poverty statistics, educational needs, sub-ethnicities, housing and healthcare scarcity remain hidden—masked by the aggregate data of a huge population buried under byzantine governmental complexity. The sheer size, complexity and diversity of Los Angeles County can be a barrier for funders, policy-makers, journalists and activists to the understanding and addressing the needs of the under-represented and under-served.
While we know a good deal about Los Angeles County, there is much we don't yet know, or can't yet share with our community. Some of the hurdles we face are technological, and some of them (perhaps most of them) are bureaucratic. The governments of Los Angeles County and the cities within it generate huge amounts of data but a surprising amount of it is not publicly available. We, along with our community, aim to change that.
How: a community of datanauts
All this is to say, that as a community and as a site, we're a work in progress, entirely invested in building and supporting the data-focused community, and although we've tirelessly worked to build and improve LA Counts, we're humble about what we've accomplished so far.
Like it? Let us know! Think it needs work? Tell us! Want to make change in your neighborhood? Great! Want to influence policy affecting the poorest and most vulnerable populations? Get involved and help us make Los Angeles County the best it can be!