3 Ways to reduce the cost
of developing Open Data apps

With the Socrata Open Data API (SODA), you can make it easy for civic application developers and your own IT staff to transform your organization’s data into useful applications and services for your constituents. Build web-based apps, mobile apps, data mashups, even IVR- and voice-based applications quickly and cost-effectively. Better yet, tap into a community of developers that is already building civic apps for federal, state and local government organizations.

A community of Open Data developers is waiting for your data

The phrase “build it and they will come” is all too familiar in the technology industry. In the case of Open Data, the good news is developers have already built ‘it’. Civic applications that use open government data already exist and some of them are quite successful in transforming government data into a valuable utility for the public. Examples like SeeClickFixOneBusAway, Kidsplayguide (MomMaps) are popular apps in their communities. Others are nationwide like Propeller Health, which uses health data published by the Federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to help Asthma patients cope better.

What the developer community needs in order for you to access some of these apps are 1) your data and 2) programmatic access to it. Asking these developers to download your data from a csv file, have them store it, transform it and maintain it over time, would raise the bar for them considerably and unnecessarily.

Instead, by using the Socrata Open Data PlatformTM to share your data, you automatically ‘API-enable’ all your datasets and make it a great deal easier for developers to access your data and use it. Whether it’s public safety (e.g. real-time 911 data), environmental, or transportation data, you will be able to tap into these innovative apps very quickly and at a fraction of the cost of any other alternative.

What about your own staff? They’re building apps too.

Your IT team is constantly building apps that combine datasets and web services to create new applications and mashups for your constituents. Most of the time, they are trying to use the very same datasets your organization would put on its Open Data site. Why duplicate effort? The same API that civic app developers use to speed up development and reduce data maintenance costs, is also available to your staff with one additional advantage:

  • Consistent and uniform interface to all datasets
  • Programmatic access to data and metadata (Internal developers have exclusive write access through the API)
  • High data throughput
  • Support for complex sorting and filtering operations
  • Choice of programming language
  • RESTful architecture
  • Open standards, non-proprietary implementation
  • Well documented resource library, and a community site supported by Socrata engineers

What if your IT team didn’t have to build some apps in the first place?

A considerable number of web applications that IT teams typically have to build on the government organization’s web site are designed to facilitate citizen access to data that resides in other internal systems. Often, these web applications provide a browse/query interface that non-technical constituents can use to self-serve by accessing public data from otherwise inaccessible systems or record.

Examples of these apps may include interactive map representations of the organization’s physical assets and facilities, a searchable staff directory, or a citizen-facing Web form that is used to collect data in a database for internal use.

The Socrata Open Data PlatformTM can reduce, and often eliminate the need to build these types of applications. This is possible because the data exploration experience on a Socrata-hosted dataset supports multiple intuitive interfaces for interacting with data and searching (or browsing, or visualizing) large datasets for answers and insight.

Example 1: Guided Browsing eliminates the need to build custom web query interfaces

Example 2: A phone-based (IVR-based) interface to query Socrata-hosted data:

One of the most compelling advantages of hosting data on the Socrata Open Data PlatformTM is the fact that data is published once, but becomes instantly available in many different formats, through several channels of interaction, each optimized for a specific context. One of the ways Socrata-powered datasets are accessible is through the phone.

Benefit: The Socrata Open Data PlatformTM gives you several ways to accelerate application development using Open Data, while at the same time reducing upfront and maintenance costs.