You would probably ask me : why write an article about an open GIS platform in an American city ? There are lots of them in the United States ! Well, but this one is a very special one : it’s not only a tool for discovering data about one’s town, it’s a real tool for citizens to build their city, to « bring residents into the planning process » as Long Beach Mayor, Robert Garcia, said. The mayor is apparently very proud of his platform, since he tries to talk about it in different media. The platform is in fact a portal, composed of many applications, most of which are based on ArcGIS Online technology, but some of those were created by small « start-ups », with which the city has developped a partnership. For example, the civic tech organization Code of America helped the city build an application for citizens to ask for help without calling 911, an emergency number often saturated. Another example : the « tech startup » OpenGov created an application for citizens to analyse the city’s budget.
All these applications were integrated to the portal, to the point that it could be considered as a sort of mix of everything without real consistency… Anyway, it seems a little bit excessive to speak of « bringing residents into the planning process ». Indeed, the different applications enable the visualization of spatial data, in some cases to expand it with personal contributions, but rarely to really participate in urban planning.
When you log onto the platform, the first thing you are invited to do is to find data in a catalog. Then, you are in front of a list of 82 thematic maps which show such various datas as school locations, senatorial districts, liquefaction zones, dog parks or bikeways… These open data are approximately the same that you can find in Paris…
What is more interesting is the applications. For example, the Gateway COG Site Prospector in an application for individuals or firms to find real estate for sale or lease. You can indicate the destination or the minimal size you want and the application show displays the places that correspond to your search.
Last but not least, the section « Unlock the city data » invites citizens to build their own applications thanks to the data available. To consult the data, surfers can click on « open in ArcGIS » and visualize it on maps or on different kind of charts. They can also find a link to a website explaining how to use easily models and APIs to build applications without coding. It is not certain that many citizens from Long Beach create applications with the city’s data just for fun if they are uninitiated to geomatics, but this proposal has the virtue of existing !