Open Data Portals in NC

Open Data Portals in NC

Cary, NC – The open data movement is gaining traction in North Carolina. This month both the Durham City/County portal and the Wake County portal have come on line. Here is a summary of the open data portals currently in operation in North Carolina.

Asheville was the first city in North Carolina with an open data portal. The portal was developed in 2012 in support of Asheville’s first Open Data Day. The Asheville portal is powered by Azavea, a B-Corporation out of Philadelphia that specializes in the creation of geographic web and mobile software.

Cary put up an open data site in support of Cary Open Data Day in 2013. This site consisted of 6 datasets in .csv format and was kept updated for some time following the event. The site is no longer active but we understand that Cary is undertaking an open data program soon so we will wait to see what portal Cary uses.


Charlotte launched their open data portal in late 2014 in conjunction with their Code for America Fellowship program. The Charlotte portal is powered by ESRI, a US company providing geospacial mapping tools.

Durham City and Durham County
Durham City and Durham County released their open data portal in time for Triangle Open Data Day 2015. The Durham portal is powered by OpenDataSoft, a French company providing open data portals.

Raleigh launched their open data portal early 2013 which has been recognized with a 2013 Web 2.0 Award from the Public Technology Institute (PTI). The Raleigh open data portal is powered by Socrata, a US company that provides open data portals.

Wake County
Wake County has just released a Beta open data portal and is looking for public feedback. The Wake County portal is powered by ESRI, a US company providing geospacial mapping tools.

Open NC is a catalog of digital public data created by state and local governments in North Carolina. It was created by Ryan Thornburg, an Associate Professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with funding from a Knight Foundation News Challenge grant.

NC Datapalooza
NC Datapalooza is a 6 month long open data competition in NC with 2015 being the third year of this program. The NC Datapalooza open data portal is powered by Socrata, a US company that provides open data portals.

Open Data Portal Location Visualizations

We wanted to give our readers some idea of the power of embedding visualizations into their stories. First we created a simple .csv file that included the pertinent data about the open data portals in NC. We used the geocordinates from GeoHack. Since the writer has access to a Socrata and OpenDataSoft portal, the csv file was uploaded to the portals and the resulting visualizations were embedded in this post.

Changes to the underlying data set in the portal will be immediately available to the visualizations on your post. This means that your visualization will always be current and there will be no need to republish based on updated information. Of course if you want a snapshot in time you can always embed a screen shot of the visualization.



Previous Articles on Open Data

Disclosure: The writer is an organizer of NC Datapalooza (which has a full Socrata portal) and a Brigade Captain of Code for Cary (which has a full OpenDataSoft Portal as well as a brigade level Socrata portal)

NC Digital Commons

NC “Mobile First” – Digital Front Door Project Series

Cary, NC – Cary, NC – This is the third article in our series of the new paradigm for redeveloping municipal websites. We will bring you stories of the innovative things people are doing in this space. This article is about the Digital Commons Project at the State of North Carolina.

NC Digital Commons Project and State Agency Websites are Getting a Facelift, Going Mobile

The state is working to improve its web presence, not just for, but for state agencies as well. We’re calling it the Digital Commons Project, with the goal of better customer service by improving user experience.

The Digital Commons Project provides cabinet agencies with the resources to have a modern, mobile-ready website that is better able to meet the needs of the citizen. For the first time, cabinet agencies are working together to provide predictable navigation, content that is easier to manage and that is better maintained, and a modern means to create and maintain websites. Websites will have robust functionality combined with a clean look and feel that functions on desktops, tablets and smartphones. A “mobile-first” approach will ensure websites work just as well on a small screen as on a large one. Designs will be consistent while allowing the flexibility for each agency site to have its own personality.

Why Mobile-First?

Many people in North Carolina do not have access to broadband or PC’s and for these people their smartphone is their access to the Internet. Designing for the smaller screen format first is important so all these people can access your content and interact with your websites. It is much easier to start small and add additional content for those with bigger screen sizes, than it is to try and shrink a website that was developed for the PC’s and have it be usable on a smartphone.

Brendan Morrisey, the CEO of Netsertive, recently presented the reality that mobile devices are currently outselling PC’s four to one, an impressive market penetration from their introduction in 2006. Brendan’s message is that you have to react to the innovations in the marketplace or you will be left behind. (Brendan’s presentation on innovation was given at the Morrisville Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting an Friday, January 30, 2015. There was a lot of great information in the presentation and we will try to bring some of that content to our readers soon.)

For both the reasons of lack of broadband and PC’s as well as the large scale adoption of mobile devices, “Mobile-first” is a smart strategy for the State of NC to be pursuing.

Check out the Digital Commons Project and see how you like it, also see if you like the process they are using to redesign their sites. If you find this interesting and useful, please talk to your elected officials to see if your Town or City can use a similar process for their website redesign.

Previous Tech Tank Articles in the Digital Front Door Series

GOV.UK Website

GOV.UK – Digital Front Door Project Series

Cary, NC – This is the second article in our series of the new paradigm for redeveloping municipal websites. We will bring you stories of the innovative things people are doing in this space. This article is about one of the first of this new best-in-class website redesign efforts, the development of GOV.UK.


GOV.UK is the online home of government services and information in the United Kingdom. Released in October 2012, it was the first phase in the creation of a single domain for government, addressing the needs of users previously served by several other websites. GOV.UK is a key element in the government’s Digital by Default agenda, which was instigated by Martha Lane Fox’s “Revolution, not Evolution” report and endorsed by Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude.

GOV.UK has been built and tested in public, so that feedback from real users could be gathered and fed into successive improvements. This is in stark contrast to how large government IT projects have been delivered in the past. The agile, iterative approach means that the site can rapidly accommodate new standards for development and security, catering to emerging technology platforms and user requirements. These techniques have been shown to be more effective at delivering large-scale projects for the web – in the same way that world-class services like Amazon, Google and iPlayer are built and maintained.

GOV.UK has also been built using open source technology, which means that government won’t have to pay expensive software licensing costs.

Francis Maude on GOV.UK

Francis Maude said that creating GOV.UK has required a step-change in the way government presents services and information online:

GOV.UK is focused on the needs of users, not the needs of government. It has been planned, written, organised and designed around what users need to get done, not around the ways government want them to do it – providing only the content they need and nothing superfluous. Not only is the result simpler, clearer and faster for users, it will also cost taxpayers up to £70 million less per year than the services it replaces. We anticipate further substantial savings as more departments and agencies move on to the GOV.UK platform.

In the way it has been built – and will continue to be updated and improved on the basis of experience and user feedback – GOV.UK is an example of how the civil service should keep continuously changing and improving and remain focused on outcomes. The public wants services to be delivered better, and with GOV.UK we are responding with a digital platform that makes services quicker and easier to use, and produces efficiencies for government.

Check out the GOV.UK Website and see how you like it, also see if you like the process they have used to redesign their site. If you find this interesting and useful, please talk to your elected officials to see if your Town or City can use a similar process for their website redesign.

This article is based on information from the GOV.UK Press release: “GOV.UK: making public service delivery digital by default“, first published on 17 October 2012.

Previous Tech Tank Articles in the Digital Front Door Series

Philadelphia PA Alpha Website Redesign

Philadelphia – Digital Front Door Project Series

Cary, NC – This is the first article in our series of the new paradigm for redeveloping municipal websites. We will bring you stories of the innovative things people are doing in this space. First off is Philadelphia, PA.

Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia, PA has started a redesign project of their municipal website and you can see the site as it develops by going to Philadelphia is using an open iterative process to first find out how their citizens use the website, then add some design and information elements and then evaluate through web analytics how successful they are at meeting the citizen’s needs.

There is a survey on the website that they want citizens to take. The survey asks questions about what devices and where the person uses to access the website, what types of typical municipal information the user needs to find and some demographics about their neighborhood, age and language spoken at home. It is refreshing to see a survey that identifies the user and their needs first rather than asking technical questions about website structure, layout and design that most people are unable to answer properly.

Check out the Philadelphia, PA alpha site and see how you like it and if you like the process they are using to redesign the site. If you find this interesting and useful, please talk to your elected officials to see if your Town or City can use a similar process for their website redesign.



Instead of designing from our own assumptions, we will start with the needs of our neighbors, the residents of Philadelphia. We will learn how people want to use through regular usability testing and our web analytics.


Instead of designing the entire site up front, we will break down development into manageable, two week iterations. This agile process allows us to develop quickly and provides flexibility to adjust to user feedback and (inevitable) unforeseen issues.


Instead of working behind closed doors and making the public wait for a grand reveal, we will build out in the open. This is an experimental prototype, a work in progress. It’s missing content. Parts of it are confusing. The design needs work. And that’s the point. We’re starting here, knowing it’s not perfect, but with the means to continually make it better.

Other Tech Tank Digital Front Door Articles

Code for America Digital Front Door Initiative

Code for America Digital Front Door Initiative

Cary, NC – Code for America has undertaken the Digital Front Door Initiative, an effort to design city websites with people in mind. The approach is to be data-driven, quick, actionable, immediately relevant and decentralized.

Tech Tank will run a series looking at several cities that are redesigning the process where they recreate their City Websites. Lets look first at the principles of the Code for America Digital Front Door Initiative:

Goals for the Digital Front Door

We put together a list of nine principles for cities that want to launch a Digital Front Door. Every city that launches one agrees to:

  1. Embrace digital services as central to governing
    • Government services should be “digital by default,” available to us on the mainstream platforms and technologies we already use.
    • Services should be useful, accessible, and add value to our lives.
    • Government should do more than broadcast out. Tools should make room for interaction, feedback, and citizen participation.
  2. Design with empathy, establish trust
    • Government service design should reflect a respect for our time, dignity, and abilities.
    • When the act of renewing a driver’s license, filing a request, or getting a business license is pleasant, citizens begin to trust and appreciate government.
    • Services should be compelling enough that citizens prefer to use them.
  3. Serve everyone
    • Government services should be designed to reach as many citizens as possible regardless of income, location, language, or access to technology.
    • Government employees should get out of the building, test assumptions with real citizens, and tweak service design to improve it on a regular basis.
  4. Encourage citizen participation
    • Governments and citizens should share in decision-making and service design.
    • Services should be built to anticipate participation from employees and citizens in the design and development process.
  5. Be transparent and accountable
    • Let citizens and staff see and support what’s going on in government, whether it’s purchasing data, viewing open source code, or accessing open data portals.
    • Governments should be clear on the goals of a service and identify areas that can be measured, displayed, and improved on by employees and the public.
  6. Build for flexibility, welcome change
    • Online services are an ongoing investment that require attention and modification over time.
    • Government services should be launched as evolving pilot projects rather than one-time massive monoliths.
    • Cities should invest in ongoing research, maintenance, and development and should have the internal support to push regular technology upgrades.
  7. Create better processes and policies
    • The best government technologies should be easy-to-use and useful in a city employee’s regular work routine.
    • Government technology should reduce overall workload and increase the efficiency of city employees.
    • City policies should support the creation and deployment of better online services.
  8. Unlock the capabilities of government employees
    • Governments should expect city employees to tweak and improve on city services.
    • Innovation, technology maintenance, and service design should be a responsibility of all employees, rather than the realm of one group or department.
  9. Get value for tax dollars
    • Whether through short-term trials or pilot programs, no system or vendor solution should be deployed en masse without evidence of success.
    • When investing in technology, cities should consider their internal skills and ability to maintain and upgrade that technology in the future.
    • Governments should reduce barriers to the contracting process and encourage greater competition amongst vendors in order to increase options and drive down the cost of technology. Logo

NC Launches New App

Raleigh, NC – On January 17, 2014, a new mobile application was launched to help North Carolinians prepare for everything from minor traffic emergencies to severe storms on a daily basis. The app, ReadyNC, is free and available for iPhones and Android devices.

Ready NC App Screen ShotThe new app provides users with:

  • real-time traffic and weather information
  • critical information on how to be safe during different hazardous events
  • real-time information about opened shelters for evacuees (including addresses, capacity, directions and if the shelter is pet-friendly)
  • real-time updates on flood levels of major nearby creeks and rivers
  • phone numbers and links to all North Carolina power companies to report outages
  • basic instructions on how to develop emergency plans and what to put in your emergency supplies kit
  • real-time information on which counties have issued evacuation orders
  • contact numbers and links to websites for those who need help recovering from a disaster
  • direct links to the and websites [North Carolina Department of Public Safety] and social media accounts

The information that the ReadyNC app provides users is not new but has been available on the ReadyNC Website since 2006. With the rapid adoption of mobile devices, North Carolina has decided to provide the information in a form convenient to many citizens.

ReadyNC Website

In May 2006, in part due to the awareness caused by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, North Carolina kicked off a public awareness campaign aimed at getting people to take personal responsibility for themselves and their families in emergency situations. The campaign featured a new website – – that includes information on how to prepare for any type of emergency as well as information on what type of emergencies occur in North Carolina.

A Local Version of the ReadyNC Website

In August 2011 The N.C. League of Municipalities and the N.C. Association of County Commissioners announced the launch of, an emergency management preparedness website. This website is devoted to helping local governments in North Carolina prepare for and recover from disasters of any kind. It was hoped that would become a “one-stop shop” for information both before and after an emergency occurs.

A Caveat About the ReadyNC App

Be aware that the ReadyNC app does not provide the level of service of existing warning systems. In the Terms of Use of the ReadyNC App, there are the following statements:

  • The application does not replace calling 9-1-1 for emergencies.
  • It should not be used a s a substitute for a weather-alert radio during potentially life-threatening weather conditions, such as tornadoes.
  • NCDPS is not responsible if information that is made available on this app is not accurate, complete or current…

Not withstanding the above caveats, the ReadyNC app provides valuable information in a useful format. What do you think of this app? Would you download the app and use it?

Dart Language Logo

Dart Flight School in the Triangle

Research Triangle, NC – Local developer Luke Dary and the Google Developer Group in Research Triangle (GDG Research Triangle) are working with the American Underground to bring the Dart Flight School to the Triangle. On February 8, There will be simultaneous classes at the Main and new Raleigh locations of the American Underground.

What is Dart?

The Dart Language is a new class-based and object-oriented platform for scalable web app engineering. Dart is an open-source project with contributors from Google and elsewhere and includes many tools and libraries to help with the development process. Compiling using Angular Java Script will produce Dart web apps that will run in all modern browsers.

What is Dart Flight School?

Dart Flight Schools are community events run by Google Developer Groups to help developers learn Dart and Angular. Dart Flight Schools can be different in each location based on the organizers, local skill sets and interests. There can be tech talks, code labs or even mini-hackathons. As we get closer to the date, we will see what GDG Research Triangle has finalized as an agenda for the Triangle Dart Flight School.

Dart Flight School Details

  • When: Saturday, February 8, 2014 from 1-5pm
  • Durham: American Underground @ Main, 201 W Main St., Durham, NC 27701 // Durham Registration
  • Raleigh: American Underground @ Raleigh, 213 Fayetteville St. , Raleigh, NC 27601 // Raleigh Registration

Learn Dart and Angular, Get Your Web Development Wings

Sign up for only one of the sessions. The Raleigh location can hold ~20-30 people and the Durham facility can hold ~80 people. Resources for the Dart Flight School can be found on the Dart Website.  Also the GDG Research Triangle will be publishing more details and may conduct some preliminary activities at their normal meet-ups.

If you attend, please let us know what you think of Dart, Angular and the Dart Flight School.

Pinnacle Awards Picture

Wake County Award Winning Website

Raleigh, NC – On Sept. 26, 2013, Wake County won a prestigious Pinnacle Award for best local government website at the National Association of Government Web Professionals (NAGW) 2013 Conference.  (Press Release). NAGW is the leading organization for local government web professionals.

The award was recognized at Monday’s Wake County Board of Commissioners meeting. The Pinnacle Award was for ‘best local government website’ in the large population category. Kudos to Wake County! Details

The following details about the site are from the December 2, 2013 Meeting Agenda of the Wake County Board of Commissioners:

  • The current version of was launched in October 2012 and was completed in nine months, using existing staff in Information Services and content contributors from all departments.
  • No external vendors or resources were used.
  • The website receives more than 9.4 million site visits and 126.7 million page views annually and Information Services is proud of its very low downtime rate.
  • The website quickly connects users to the content and online services they need, from mobile devices and traditional computers.