This past March 1st, we had the great pleasure of hosting our third Open Data Atlantic session at the Venn Centre in Moncton. We kicked off the session with a presentation and interactive session hosted by GNB’s Gerry Fairweather & Julie Mason on developing the approach to building a 5-year digital strategy. Following that discussion, we explored a data set on the inventory of trees in the City of Moncton and how this data might tell us more than what meets the eye.
Multiple sectors including provincial and municipal governments, private and public were represented at the gathering, with 14 people in attendance.
This session, like the previous two and mission of Open Data Atlantic, have been focused on growing digital literacy, addressing the areas of improvement or barriers to an open government and understanding the positive impact that data analysis can have on communities. By doing so, we hope to grow and develop our communities in New Brunswick & Atlantic Canada through data analysis, visualization and storytelling.
Approach to Developing the GNB 5-year Digital Strategy
Through hosting members of GNB, attendees articulated their thoughts on the key points for developing a digital society in New Brunswick and the components critical to the success of this strategy. This is incredibly important as GNB works to make its vision as becoming the first digital society in North America a reality.
After presenting the background behind the need for developing this strategy, along with a snapshot on where it is today, attendees participated in an interactive session which focused discussing the benefits and outcomes of developing a digital strategy and open data policy for our province. The discussion around these questions was rich, with common concerns including:
- How do we make the need for open data (in standardized formats) a common understanding among our province?
- How do we explore the discussion around job security with increased automation?
- How do we ensure that all this online information is secure?
In addition to noting the areas that make many of us apprehensive about digitizing as a society was exploring the benefit that it can bring, which included:
- More data-driven decision making as opposed to decision making backed by instinct
- Increased transparency between governments (federal, provincial and municipal) and citizens
- Increased accessibility through multiple channels to access government services
- Increased productivity and efficiency through automated and streamlined processes
- Providing citizens better services that are delivered faster
In conclusion to Gerry’s and Julie’s session was a common thread of appreciation that the government was coming to citizens to co-create a strategy that is beneficial to all stakeholders involved. We believe that both these individuals provided a fantastic opportunity and we were incredibly pleased to not only host them, but to contribute to the session too.
Exploring the Inventory of Trees in the City of Moncton
Before diving into the data analysis around the data set we explored during this meeting, we discussed the definitions of data and open data, comparing previous and current understandings of both those terms. It is safe to say that the discussions brought greater light to both these terms, aiding in a deeper appreciation for both.
For this presentation, we defined data as “facts and statistics collected together for reference or analysis” and open data as “structured data that is machine-readable, freely shared, used and built on without restrictions.” It is important to note that there is much greater depth to these definitions and we invited anyone reading this to join us for a conversation and gathering to explore them further.
The first graph we looked at was the most common trees within Moncton (that were in the inventory) which included Norway Maple with 1252 trees, Red Maple trees with 1067 trees and Silver Maple with 481 trees. This graph could be helpful in understanding the common traits of these three trees and their benefit to this area and ecosystem, perhaps highlighting the need for more or less of them.
Following this analysis was viewing of the tallest trees in Moncton which include an Eastern Cottonwood at 31m in height, a Red Maple at 29m in height and an American Elm at 27m in height. What may seem somewhat trivial at face value could be incredible information for city developers, who may be developing tall buildings in an area, and property value assessors too. If this information was presented on a map, with information as to the trees heights, it could provide great insight into city development in certain areas, and perhaps aid in determining height regulations for the development of buildings.
This graph and map provide insight around the concentration of trees in certain areas. By understanding this information, individuals may be able to overlay other data sets with it to understand the relationship with, for example, trees and energy usage. Because trees are a natural cooling agent in our ecosystem, they may play a significant role in energy reduction throughout the summer months by limiting the need for air conditioning usage. This could guide city planners in where trees should be planted and help energy providers reduce the stress on delivering energy to certain areas.
In addition to energy data to be compared against tree data, the following areas could be explored through data analysis and visualization:
- Combating climate change
- Reducing violence
- Do areas with more trees provide a calmer environment with lower rates of violence?
- Providing oxygen
- Are people who live in areas with higher densities of trees healthier than those who don’t
- Clean the air
- Mark the season
- Create economic opportunities
- Conserve energy
- Besides reducing AC, can trees play a role in reducing energy usage?
- Increase property value
- Provide food
What started as somewhat of a simpler data set quickly turned into a wealth of information that could potentially help many different individuals in various departments and business verticals.
If you’re interested in learning more about this process of data analysis, visualization and storytelling, we invite you to join us at an Open Data Atlantic gathering. Check out our site at www.opendata-atlantic.com or follow us on twitter/facebook to get information on our next gathering.
We hope you found this information insightful, and we welcome any questions or comments.
Feel free to reach out via social media or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Erin Flood & Sara Taaffe