Jackson touts transparency with new data-driven website

City budgets and crime stats among data available for public to inspect.

Jackson touts transparency with new data-driven website

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Jackson city leaders unveiled a brand-new website Monday, specifically designed for data on everything from public safety to population, which will eventually include real-time collection of information from every department.

Chief Administrative Officer Robert Blaine said the statistics and charts will tell their own stories of the city of Jackson and help demonsrate the city’s commitment to transparency.

“We want to make this data open and available to every single constituent so they can have the awareness of what is happening and they can start to use the data to inform their own decision making as we begin to talk about how we truly move the city of Jackson into the 21st century," Blaine said during the administration’s official launch of the open data portal.

Jackson’s brand new website has more than 50 interactive charts -- with more expected to be added in the weeks to come -- from a variety of subjects, including population, public safety, education and the economy.

“All of the information found here has been sourced from federal agencies, including the U.S. Census Bureau and our city’s digital systems," Blaine said.

A 3 On Your Side analysis of the Tableau charts created by the city’s data scientist, Lacey Loftin, show that nearly 80 percent are based on data compiled from state and federal sources. However, the ones that deal with crime statistics over a 10-year period, fire department response information and 311 calls to the city’s public works department come from city sources.

The most interactive -- and perhaps most important -- feature added to the OpenGov site deals with Jackson’s budget.

An interactive system of graphs allows users to mouse over sections of the budget to reveal money allotted and spent in various categories for two fiscal years.

The current fiscal year has not yet been added to the site, but Blaine said once it is, people will be able to see how the budget functions in real-time.

“As we build those components, these real-time data points will be able to automatically populate, and there won’t be any hiccup between the data that you see and what’s happening today,” Blaine said. “Every single department in the city will be incorporated into this, and so the data that’s produced in police, fire, human and cultural services, all automatically integrates into this platform.”

Former Mayor Tony Yarber also launched a similar open data website during his term, listing infrastructure projects, crime statistics and goals established within that administration.

The data, presented in graphs that could be manipulated through clicks and scrolls, resembled Monday’s new system in some ways, but Blaine said they’re very different.

“One of the big differences is that that was a very manual process, and it depended on the independent reporting of each department, which was incredibly labor intensive,” Blaine said. “It also creates opportunities for errors, because all of that is human captured. This process automates much of that work and it brings together real-time data that’s not dependent on independent reporting from departments.”

Blaine hopes those enterprise software upgrades will be made in the next fiscal year, but did not have a specific date.

He also believes that daily reporting of this data will help them predict and establish trends to help city leaders make better decisions

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