How a county delivers data-driven decisions

How one county now delivers data-driven decisions

When Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker III took office in 2010, one of his primary goals was to make more data-driven decisions. To do so, the county needed access to data from every major system that was providing services to county residents or supporting back-office functions.

“What we’re looking to do is to make associations across those different datasets to be able to answer certain questions,” county CIO Vennard Wright told GCN.

To surface that data, County Application Manager Calvert Smith built the OpenPGC data portal with a team of devleopers and contractors. The team first determined what data existed and whether or not it was accessible. The first iteration of the site went live in six months.

OpenPGC, which won GCN's 2016 dig IT Award for open data project, is the display layer to the county’s data warehouse, and it interfaces with various data sources, including customer relationship management applications and case management tools.  The web-based, display layer runs on a SQL server and is powered by Socrata, a provider of cloud-based data visualization and analysis tools.

The display features a series of dashboards and applications that provide participating agencies with secure access to datasets and real-time information on performance management. According to Wright, about 75 percent of county agencies have their own data in OpenPGC to measure and monitor performance management, resource allocation and budgeting decisions.

Externally, the public can access data through the interactive Open Data Portal. Citizens can see data on the county’s approved operating budget and how long 311 calls take to be answered and resolved, for example. The information is viewable in several formats, from data tables to reports and Esri-powered geographic information system maps. 

The site includes the “What If“ budget tool, that lets citizens interactively view and modify the county’s budget and make recommendations about where the county should be putting its resources. Prince George’s County has already made decisions based on those recommendations.

In order to maintain security, data is scrubbed of personally identifiable information before being made public. Agencies can apply different levels of access to internal users.

OpenPGC also supports CountyStat, a program that identifies and implements best practices to improve government operations and policies in areas that range from education to health care to safe neighborhoods. Analysts work with agencies to explore their data and find the gaps in service delivery. The program also helps agencies align their goals to prepare the annual proposed budget and analyzes policy and workflow issues impacting county government.

The CountyStat team has access to all data in OpenPGC, which it uses to measure government progress over time. As a result of CountyStat, Prince George’s County built the Performance Prince George’s portal within the last year. It provides transparency into the performance of agencies and branches of government, as well as into the internal IT service-level agreement dashboard.

Other initiatives under OpenPGC include CountyClick 311, the online portal for non-emergency service requests, and  Mobile Prince George’s, where the city’s mobile apps reside. Topic-specific portals, such as Data Prince George’s, Budget Prince George’s, Digital Prince George’s and Performance Price George’s, have also been created.

The county is now working with Information Builders, a business intelligence software company, to incorporate predictive analytics and gauge the outcome of applying more resources in a specific area. “We’re constantly adding new things to it so it is an evolving model,” Wright said.

About the Author

Amanda Ziadeh is a former reporter/producer for GCN.

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