Finding sources of open data can be a little cumbersome because there are so many ways to find data. There are a lot of websites that house data. For instance, let’s say that you are looking for data on the bike routes in Philadelphia. One place you can look at is Open Data Philly which is a portal that provides access Philadelphia based data sets, APIs, and applications. You can search amongst the over 170 datasets or even submit or nominate a dataset to be included on the site. A quick search on the site shows that there are 6 datasets related to biking ranging from bike rack locations to commuting routes. Many large cities and counties are have websites where they store open data for their municipalities.
Here are some sites for local/federal government data:
Philadelphia: Open Data Philly
New York City: NYC Open Data
Boston: City of Boston
District of Columbia: Open Data Catalog
U.S. Government: Data.gov
Recently a friend of mine posted on her Facebook page a link to a free course on QGIS, a free open-sourced GIS software package. I was so excited to see this as I have been really interested in this software but haven’t been able to find a tutorial for it. I tried to find some stuff on YouTube there was nothing there that would help out a new user. This course is being offered by Canvas By Instructure, a start-up founded in 2008 that colleges and universities use to offer online classes. I signed up for the Q-GIS course which is at your own pace. I liked this idea because it’s hard for me to juggle assignments with all that i have going on in my everyday life. I’m really looking forward to seeing how it goes. For more info go to GIS Lounge a really cool site that keeps GIS users up-to-date on everything going on in the GIS world.
One of the things that I have been meaning to work is visualizing data for this blog. I am a visual person and I find it easier to look at a graph or map than stare at a report. Luckily, there are a lot of sites that cater to the data visualization crowd. The one that I plan on testing is called Tableau Public (the free one) version is 8.2. Tableau is a data visualization software that allows you to use Excel spreadsheets, Access databases or text files to produce charts, graphs and maps that can be added to the web. I have yet to try it out. I am still at the stage of watching the introductory YouTube videos. Once I get it up and running, I’ll post my progress under the Projects portion on the blog. If you have used Tableau before please feel free to leave a comment. I’d love to hear the plus and minuses of your experience.
One of the most overlooked places to go to get assistance for data for your research is the public library. With the popularity if the internet, people sometimes forget about the utilizing their local public library as a resource. I always promote libraries to clients because they have access to things that you may not find online. All you really need is a library card and you can take advantage of tools that are paid for by your tax dollars. Also, business /non-profit librarians are subject matter experts, they can show you how to use the library to your advantage. They can grant you access to databases/magazine that need subscriptions and many offer free workshops and bring in guest speakers. So check out your neighborhood library and stop by the reference desk and strike up a conversation with the librarian. It’s like sitting with a consultant for free. Now who doesn’t like that!
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One crucial part of a business plan or a grant is the section on who your potential customer base/client base is. This information is vital to your bottom line whether you’re reaching out for funding or pricing your services to customers.
Why spend a ton of money having someone else crunch numbers and send you a report that you can create on your own for little to no money. How so? By using data that is already available. One of the most widely used sources of data on people is census data. You can get all types of stuff including income, education, languages spoken, family composition many times down to the neighborhood level. Sometimes it does take a little work to understand what you are looking at but I guarantee that the info that you find will be very eye-opening. Imagine you want to know the income level of an area because you are thinking about opening a business or want to get funding for a grant to help children receive after school tutoring. Demographic data can help you find the best place to serve your community or open your business.
Here are some websites that you can peruse to see what data is available.
US Census Bureau: http://www.census.gov
Statistics Canada: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/start-debut-eng.html
United Kingdom Office for National Statistics: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/index.html
Mexico Census (site is in Spanish): http://www.inegi.org.mx/
Showing that you have really done your homework can make your proposition stand our from among the crowd. And with all the competition out there who doesn’t want any advantage they can get?
There are many sources of free data that are available from the internet and brick and mortar places (like libraries) that most of the public aren’t aware of. When writing a business plan or a grant it’s best to have data behind your idea that will make your project stand out from your competition. And if you are like most of us, you have a limited time and budget for research. I’m going to show you what resources are out there, how to find them and how to get the most out of them. We’ll be exploring government data sources, books that you need to read and websites to bookmark. Feel free to send me your tips and tricks. Looking forward to seeing how far your ideas can grow!