The Big Idea: making cities fully transparent

January 13, 2014 by
Filed under: Fellowship, Uncategorized 

Nathan Boublil Nathan Boublil FRSA co-founded Stat.io, a Cambridge-based software company aggregating the millions of statistical spreadsheets released by government units. While the data-driven software is mainly intended for professional decision-makers, Stat.io is now partnering with cities to launch OpenCity portals. These virtual townhalls allow any citizen to be able to seamlessly view all available data points about their city and engage with other citizens as well as their local policy makers.

The story so far

Stat.io, founded in late 2012 by a team of Cambridge University graduates, has been committed to developing technology addressing Open Data’s usability issues: segregation (the data divided across more than 500 portals on the web) and formatting (eclectic mix of data formats, structures and languages). As millions of datasets are being released publicly by government units, Stat.io has been working on ways to aggregate, geo-reference and normalise this statistical data, creating in the process a search engine particularly relevant for professional decision-makers (corporate strategists, NGOs, government officials). Supported by the RSA’s Catalyst programme, Cambridge University, Unltd and Google, Stat.io has already aggregated over 20 million datasets.

Stat.io will not rest until the socio-economic situation of every geographical point on the planet can be accessed in a few clicks.

Stat.io is now looking to apply this technology to tackling local issues by launching OpenCity. Encouraged by a prize received from San Francisco’s Mayor Lee last year, the team is now starting collaborations with cities in the UK and abroad to create a full local transparency solution. The offer is simple: the Stat.io software aggregates of all of a city’s public data (hundreds to tens of thousands of datasets depending on the city) on a single online page and the easy-to-use interface lets any citizen comment on the layers of data using their existing social media credentials.

Statio

We have all seen the deluge of citizens commenting about their cities, neighbourhood of street – in positive or negative ways – on obscure online forums or social media… The issue is that online citizen engagement has so far been inefficient. Comments often lack credibility as not backed up by data and simply hit a communications wall as there is no way for government officials to keep track (and therefore act on them).

Through OpenCity, we at Stat.io are essentially creating a 24/7 easy-to-use virtual town hall. The platform provides a common structure where every citizen has access to all the objective (recent and historical) facts and can, in one click, make data-driven suggestions/comments involving other citizens and local officials. The entire platform is geo-referenced, making it particularly easy to navigate. All discussions happen using twitter/facebook credentials, adding even more convenience as both citizens and (increasingly) government officials are present on the social networks. Stat.io will not rest until the socio-economic situation of every geographical point on the planet can be accessed in a few clicks.

At Nacue’s varsity pitch in November (where Stat.io won best financial technology), ex Ambassador David Landsman OBE called Stat.io “an important tool for democracy”. Indeed, Stat.io clearly intends to provide a way to improve both transparency and accountability – one city at a time.

How you can get involved

Stat.io is currently recruiting 5 partner cities (3 in the UK and 2 abroad), of all sizes. If you are interested to be part of the scheme or believe your city should be – please do get in touch with us on cities@stat.io. More information can also be found on www.stat.io/cities

Nathan Boublil FRSA

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Comments

  • Christina

    Transparency!! That would be fantastic, at present it is very difficult to contact, let alone find out what Croydon council is up to, and that’s just the councillors and the MP.