Douglas County is one of the 64 counties of the state of Colorado, located in the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO Metropolitan Statistical Area. And like many other state counties, Douglas uses open data programs designed to improve government efficiency in servicing its citizens. As a data-consulting firm, Xentity had been subcontracted by Socrata, who had been contracted by Douglas County for their platform services, to provide an expertise on open data services with the express purpose of helping Douglas County improve their open data programs with the ultimate goal of improving citizen quality of life, increasing economic opportunity and helping governments become more efficient and effective.

Seeking To Improve Open Data Programs

Open data programs, much like any other government program, require constant updating and maintenance to ensure that they continue to work as intended. As mentioned before, Douglas County sought to improve their open data programs with the ultimate goal of improving citizen quality of life, increasing economic opportunity and helping governments become more efficient and effective. The goal had been to accomplish this during the first year of the project. Socrata had originally been contracted to provide platform services, yet this project also required an open data expert to aid in improving Douglas County’s open data programs. Through their long history as a data-consulting firm, Xentity was the natural choice for aid in this project.

The Solution

Xentity staff developed both application and best practices, including GIS for Douglas County’s Open Data Portal.  This included identifying, collecting, formatting, cleansing and publishing datasets in Socrata. Xentity also managed the Socrata Open Data Portal and cloud hosted a database accessible only via API.  They also designed and implemented overlay map service views in Socrata and trained on new open data extensions including GIS capabilities. 

The Project’s Second Year

Then, in the second year of the project, Xentity designed, built and QA/QC’d a browser-based Amazon Alexa application to interact with the open data source feed, event calendar dataset, and then record on S3 JSON interaction events and governmental units. The application created  a question-response intent feature for the Douglas County Alexa Skill with the following features: It accepts a question such as “What is the phone number for the Assessor” or “what are the Clerk and Recorder’s office hours?” (assuming two slot types of “department” and “service”). It reviews an Open Data dataset to determine the response to the question. Also, it returns a response with the answer of the question. Furthermore, it returns an error gracefully if an answer is unavailable for the utterance. Finally, it logs errored questions for future review.

Next, it uses the existing Open Data portal to contain the data in an API accessible, open format. Then it allows multiple individuals to create and manage content. It permits only specific individuals to create and manage content. Also, it has a user management feature. Furthermore, it has a publishing feature, enabling review of postings prior to making them “live” for downstream consumption. Finally, it is platform independent. This means that it can stand alone and does not require a Content Management System to operate the open dataset. And it asks questions that can be answered if user provides an additional piece of information; such as city, zip code, or account number.

Improved Open Data Program And An Alexa-Based Application To Interact With That Program

With Xentity’s help, Douglas County improved its open data program for the sake of its citizens’ quality of life. Furthermore, with the design and release of Xentity’s browser-based Amazon Alexa application, citizens are able to interact with Douglas County’s open data source feed, creating a more open channel between the county government and its citizens. Data becoming more and more available to the public. Therefore, it is important to have working data programs that can keep that information open to the public. Also, it is important to have a channel between the government and the public. One that allows said public to freely query for information within that data. With this in mind, Xentity was happy to provide their contribution to data becoming more open and available.