Talking Open Data with Kelly Jin

Kelly Jin
Kelly Jin
City Headshots
Kelly Jin

Talking Open Data with Kelly Jin

First Read Tech talks to chief analytics officer for New York City, Kelly Jin.
March 6, 2020

In a new recurring feature, First Read Tech will be talking to leaders in government and technology about the intersection of the two fields and how New York can lead through innovation.

This week’s installment features Kelly Jin, chief analytics officer for New York City and director of the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics. 

I think people understand that it’s great for the city to publish all these data sets through the Open Data portal, but they might not understand how it’s being used. Can you point to some specific examples of how open data has been used, and by whom?

I’ll point to something that the city and the Department of Education have been working on in collaboration with BetaNYC, which is called the Hack League. They have been working with the Computer Science For All (CS4All) program to do programming using New York City open data, working with kindergarten through 12th-grade students. I think it’s specifically focused on middle school and high school students. Students are learning more about their neighborhoods, say, through 311 service requests, as one example of many, many examples on our portal, and using that as part of the educational curriculum.

When city agencies are putting out thousands of data sets through the Open Data Law, you might be fulfilling the goal of transparency, but how do you ensure that that massive amount of data is also accessible and understandable?

There are a few elements to that. The first is, as a part of the law and additional laws that have been passed around open data, there are requirements for certain data sets, attaching latitudes and longitudes to them. Let’s say, for anything that has a New York City address, there are provisions for making sure that there is technical documentation so that whether it’s an academic researcher or even a city agency frontline data analyst, that they are able to understand and have additional context when they dive into a data set. From my perspective within the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics, we don’t just oversee the Open Data program, but we also have a team of four data scientists. They literally go to the portal first, as a resource, when they’re doing their analysis. So it’s of utmost importance to us to not just oversee a lot of that work but to bring everybody along, because we are also consumers of the data sets that actually live on the portal.

Open Data Week ends tomorrow with the NYC School of Data event. In the course of this past week, have any events stood out to you or have you learned something about city data that you didn’t know before?

I was at the opening of Data Through Design (an exhibition featuring tangible and multimedia depictions of city data) on Friday night, which was packed. There was a line down the block the entire evening, and I’ve never seen anybody wait in line for data.

For the rest of today's tech news, head over to First Read Tech.

Annie McDonough
Annie McDonough
is a tech and policy reporter at City & State.
20200813