Eric Roche at Code for KC

KCMO open data coordinator Eric Roche talks to Code for KC.

Open data is the lifeblood of civic hacking.

Without data to build upon — whether that’s crime statistics, downtown foot traffic, or water consumption — it’s difficult to create apps that serve a meaningful purpose to residents of a city.

Eric Roche is a Cookingham-Noll Management Fellow who’s serving as open data analyst for the City of Kansas City, Mo. He shared his open data expertise Monday night with 17 members of the Code for KC brigade as part of the  group’s Learn Night series.

A self-described “data wonk,” Eric gave the civic app builders and UX junkies of Code for KC a detailed look inside the city’s interactive open data portal at Powered by industry-leading data transparency service Socrata, the portal is the online interface where KCMO’s public data lives and breathes.

The platform allows citizen users to make simple map-based visualizations of the city’s data to tell a story — or to inform their understanding of the city. For example, this heat map showing auto thefts in KCMO could, among other things, tell you where not to leave your car unlocked.

Auto theft map

Heat map showing auto thefts in Kansas City.


Eric suggested several use cases for the open data sets, including:

  • A food truck owner using the Pedestrian Count Heat Map to plan where to station his food truck to capitalize on foot traffic.
  • A historic preservation society using Property Violations data to target rehabilitation efforts for buildings.
  • A neighborhood group using the city’s already built Open Budget app to show their councilmember how money has been spent in the past in order to justify their current community needs.

Download Eric’s presentation here (PDF).

Open data empowers citizens, but only if people know how to use it. In his talk Monday night, Eric shared eight great data sets ripe for coders to build on.

KCMO’s Eight Best Data Sets for Hackers

  1. 311 Call Data: Daily updates of citizen inquiries and service requests through 311.
  2. Dangerous Buildings List: Buildings that are in need of repair.
  3. Traffic Counts at Signals: Busy intersections around the metro.
  4. Crime Data: A link to search various crime report data sets.
  5. Business License Holders: Hugely comprehensive list of everyone who holds a business license.
  6. Land Bank Data: List of distressed or vacant properties owned by the Land Bank.
  7. KCATA Bus Stops: Bus stops in KCMO.
  8. 1940-2010 Census Block Data: Combining these datasets with Census data, American Community Survey data, or data from the State’s Data Portal

hackkc2Where to Use The Data: Hack Kansas City

KC Digital Drive and Code for KC would love to see engaged coders and activist visionaries come together to build on these and other data June 6-7 at Hack Kansas City. The two-day civic hackathon is open to the public, and teams are forming now. Get info, sign up to hack, and submit your idea for a data-driven app here.

Coders are also encouraged to join Code for KC at our weekly Hack Night Meetups and follow us on Twitter @codeforkc.

Got Data? 

If you are an open data analyst, coordinator, or advocate from other parts of the KC metro, including city or county government, we’d love to connect! Please contact KC Digital Drive.

Further Reading