Director’s Update

Creating a Regional Data Center

Optimal decision making requires accurate, timely, and easily accessible data. Goals, such as improving neighborhood housing quality, social service delivery, and health care access greatly benefit from broadly accessible information, sound analysis, and tools to transform and visualize data. To improve decision making and enhance civic engagement, efforts are needed to improve the availability and quality of public information. In many communities, this information is managed on paper or spreadsheets and is not easily accessible to the public. When data is shared, it is often difficult to find, infrequently updated, and poorly documented. Few if any standards are in place to assure data quality and comparability across time and geography.

The Internet has enabled the creation of tools designed to help people share and use information over computers, tablets, and smartphones. At the same time,
a growing number of residents with software development skills are building new tools to collect and disseminate regional data.

For more than two decades, the University Center for Social and Urban Research (UCSUR) at the University of Pittsburgh has been the goto resource for data and analyses to inform regional public policy. In close collaboration with the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County and the support of the local foundation community, UCSUR is poised to launch the Regional Data Center. We propose to build on and enhance existing expertise in the Center to create a comprehensive Regional Data Center that will:

  • Make administrative, survey, Census, and geographic data available and easy to use by a wide range of individuals from government officials to ordinary citizens.
  • Promote the role of evaluation, benchmarking, indicator analysis, and the use of geographic information systems data to support decision making.
  • Enhance civic engagement by improving interaction and collaboration between residents, government, civic organizations, and the University.
  • Enhance data literacy in the Region.

To achieve these goals, the Regional Data Center will:

  • Integrate publicly available administrative, survey, Census, and geographic data on a single web-based platform.
  • Provide annual summaries on key indicators for the region using multiple data sources.
  • Create and manage an open data portal allowing multiple jurisdictions to share municipal data internally and externally.
  • Encourage and support local governments to publish data to the open data portal.
  • Create a series of events and activities to build community and information tools involving civic-minded programmers, governments, residents, and community organizations.
  • Provide training and technical assistance in the application of data, analyses, and the use of data visualization tools.