From Open Data Discourse, Jan. 9: Yesterday, Open Data Discourse, a company that helps cities leverage public data to inform decision-making, held its first awards dinner and facilitated workshop at the Microsoft NERD Center for its pilot project, the Street Safety Challenge.

Launching Nov. 21, the company asked citizens to engage with open, public data about traffic accidents with pedestrians, bicycles and cars and respond with projects aimed at improving public safety in the city. A team led by Kristofer Fosmoe, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Engineering Systems Division, was the winner of that Street Safety Challenge with a project detailing the concentration of 82 percent of bicycle accidents happening on 20 percent of roads. His team, along with other winners, took home $2,500 in prizes.

“This event was a reminder that public information housed in open-data portals can do more for communities – it can bring people together, from a ninth-grade South Boston public school student to the city engineer, to develop insights from information, inform policy and improve our communities,” Open Data Discourse Founder Carey Anne Nadeau said.

Open Data Discourse, started at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is one of the only area groups focused on fostering civic engagement with city open data.

In just over six weeks, challenge data were viewed more than 2,000 times (the most of any open dataset in Cambridge in 2014) and eight submissions addressed policy-relevant issues such as how to format traffic accident data to enable trend analysis across the river into Boston, or how to reduce accidents and encourage cycling by having a parked-car buffer.

In the coming weeks, the city will post projects at City Hall with a prompt asking more of the public to submit comments.

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