After meeting a resident at a coffee shop to discuss Kansas City’s open data—one of many such meetings since the city launched its open data portal—it occurred to CDO Eric Roche that the portal wasn’t working exactly as envisioned. While open data was available, he found himself constantly needing to serve as a human data portal, helping residents find datasets.
This conversation inspired Roche to experiment with an open data chatbot, which would allow residents to ask questions on the open data portal and receive answers instantly and at any time of day. Roche’s two requirements for this experiment were that it be free and that it be easy to create. With this in mind, he worked with the city’s Code for America brigade to create a minimum viable product with limited functionality to help residents locate datasets.
Following this effort, Roche heard back from a number of cities around the country that had started on similar projects. If this collaboration continues and cities work through data standards that make chatbots replicable, Roche is confident that open data and other kinds of chatbots will become ubiquitous.
Speaker Bio: Eric Roche began working with the City of Kansas City, MO as a Cookingham-Noll Management Fellow in 2013. In his current role as CDO, Eric focuses on using data to uncover relationships, communicate ideas, and improve performance and oversees the city's open data suite. Open data initiatives include OpenData KC, KCSTAT Performance Management Dashboards, and Open Budget.