Utah Community Data Project at the U Launches Online Tool for Local Demographic Information

April 17, 2014— The Utah Community Data Project recently launched its updated online system for community-level demographic, housing and socioeconomic data. The system utilizes state-of-the-art software that helps users easily visualize and interact with information gathered from a variety of public and private sources. A growing selection of data profiles is available for a variety of geographies, including cities, census tracts and political districts.

“The Utah Community Data Project is a great example of how the state’s flagship university serves the people of Utah,” said David Pershing, president of the University of Utah. “Its work collecting and turning complex data into easily navigable graphics and demographic breakdowns will serve local government and nonprofit agencies well into the future.  More easily accessible and understandable information has the potential to improve the lives of all of the state’s citizens.”

The Utah Community Data Project, or UCDP, is housed within the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at that University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business, and it was designed to collect, store and disseminate data to help policy-makers gain valuable insight into Utah communities and shifting trends. The UCDP is on track to build a neighborhood-level information system that is unprecedented in its breadth of information, and in its means of “democratizing data” so that Utahns from all walks of life can access valuable, academically defensible and transparent data.

“We are in the midst of a great demographic, economic and cultural transformation,” notes Pamela Perlich, director of UCDP. “Most importantly, this increasing complexity and diversity varies dramatically by neighborhood and community. While many states and communities throughout the nation have programs similar to what we are building, no such system exists in Utah.”

After a soft launch in the spring of 2013, the site is now fully functional thanks to the implementation of an array of open-source software by the David Eccles School of Business IT team. In particular, the use of WEAVE (Web-based Analysis and Visualization Environment) allows users to take data from massive databases and quickly turn it into simple visual applications.

WEAVE visualizations allow users to zero in on a number of desired data breakdowns; the UCDP site currently hosts nearly 100 different WEAVE applications, covering such subjects as age, race, ethnicity, household type and household size. New WEAVE applications are continually being added to the site as the UCDP gains access to more data.

Below are some links to reports utilizing WEAVE applications on the UCDP site:

The launch of the UCDP was supported through a Salt Lake County sustainability grant, contracted research from Salt Lake City, the University of Utah and the David Eccles School of Business.

“We will continue to work with community partners to design and implement a suite of community indicators that will better inform strategic planning processes, as well as program performance evaluations,” Perlich said. “Our work program includes community indicators tracking economic stability, educational equity, health disparities, affordable housing opportunities and other quantifiable measures. These are necessary in order to design, target and ultimately evaluate the effectiveness of community investments. And federal and other funding increasingly requires data-driven justifications and validation from its applicants.”

Salt Lake City has already recognized the need for what the UCDP has to offer, through the organization’s partnership with the city council, Salt Lake City School District, mayor’s office and University of Utah in A Capital City Education, Salt Lake City’s college, career and civic readiness initiative.

“With the Utah Community Data Project as a core partner in providing contextualized community-level data, our community will benefit from huge returns on investment in large grants and other funding sources that are contingent upon detailed community indicators,” said Ralph Becker, mayor of Salt Lake City.

Ben McAdams, mayor of Salt Lake County, sees great benefits to the creation of the UCDP as well.

“This new tool is a game-changer for local governments. Now we have research data at our fingertips that is free, accessible and consistent,” McAdams said. “Our rapidly growing communities require the use of hard facts to plan for our future—the Utah Community Data Project enables that.”

The UCDP is designed to “democratize data” by keeping its products free to the public, as well as large institutions. To that end, they are pursuing funding to continue the work needed to continue the design, building, maintenance and expansion of the site. The startup funding for the project ends this year, and organizers are currently working to develop a funding stream to sustain the work into the future.

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Media Contacts For This Story

David Eccles School of Business
Office Phone: 801-587-5796
 
Senior Research Economist, Bureau of Economic and Business Research, U of U
Office Phone: 801-581-3358
Email address: pam.perlich@utah.edu