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Open Access Philly: Empowering the intersection of data and community

Here comes the promise of Mayor Nutter. In less than two years, Jeff Friedman has revolutionized Philadelphia's role in connecting community engagement and technology. On Oct. 28, Friedman, manager of the Mayor's Office of Civic Innovation & Participation, hosted Crowdsourcing at the Intersection, a free all-day Open Access Philly conference.

Speakers at the Science Center's Quorum included crowd pleasers Robert Cheetham, Alex Hillman, Geoff Dimasi, Desiree Peterkin-Bell and Paul Wright, co-leader of the forum and Comcast's project manager for Local Media Development and the new Project Open Voice initiative.

Mayor Michael Nutter, who offered remarks right at the top of the program, announced that Philadelphia's efforts have won a top-10 place on the Public Technology Institute's list of Citizen Engaged Communities. "We are in the customer service business," says Nutter of the city government's outreach strategy, in which open data and constant communication is crucial. During his speech, Nutter tweeted a photograph of the audience to prove his point.

Friedman stated as his broad goal a movement without strict membership rules convened to articulate a shared vision for open access to data. Cheetham's company Azavea, in partnership with NPowerPA, Technically Philly, and The William Penn Foundation, created the Open Data Race, and Cheetham announced winners at the forum.

Out of dozens of contenders, first place went to Public School Notebook, which wants data on where Philadelphia public school students go after 12th grade; in close second place, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia requested information on bike thefts, and third place went to Conservation Pennsylvania for vacant land data. In addition to information, winners receive cash prizes of up to $2,000.

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Kristen Fitch

Senior Director, Marketing