In government, we end up collecting a lot of data. These vast spreads of information give us a traceable history of the province and help us develop policies and informed business decisions – but why stop there? Since July 2011, BC has made more than 3,000 of these datasets freely and easily accessible to citizens – a first in Canada. So how does this data get used?
This post is part 2 of a few posts on open data I’ll be sharing over the next few days, check back for more great examples of how BCers are using open data, or checkout part 1 if you missed it.
Anoop and his team created SchoolZone – an app that uses ICBC intersection collision data and school location data from the Ministry of Education to help parents unfamiliar with a new neighborhood plot a preliminary route with the lowest traffic risk from their home to school. While it’s not an app someone would use every day, the usefulness to parents moving into a new city or with children going to a new school is pretty clear. You can use the app for yourself by clicking on the picture of it below:
Anoop worked with 3 others to create the app at a ‘Hackathon’ – an all-day event that pulls inspired BCers together to find tech solutions to everyday problems. They were inspired to create SchoolZone by their collective belief that, “staring at a spreadsheet is boring – people will use something that is interactive, that is visual and we think it’s cool to put things on a map.” They decided on road safety as a theme and brainstormed how they could mash up data sets to create something useful.
Real community impact
In a single day, SchoolZone was born. “When you get some creative, ambitious people into a room – it opens up your own mind in terms of what’s possible,” says Anoop. Although his current occupation in sales and marketing doesn’t directly involve open data, he emphasizes, “The movement of open data is really important – it allows people to create solutions that will really impact the community in which they live… Previously, generally people would work on solving business needs… If the right data is out there, it inspires people to look at this data and say ‘what can we do with it?’ It’s really opening up a new realm of possibilities that could be non-profit and just for social good.”
Anoop and his team have done just that with their SchoolZone app.