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The Global Impact of Open Data by Stefaan Verhulst, Andrew Young

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Chapter 20. Kennedy v. City of Zanesville, United States

Open Data as Evidence

Summary: For over 50 years, while access to clean water from the City of Zanesville water line spread throughout the rest of Muskingum County, residents of the predominantly African-American area of Zanesville, Ohio were only able to use contaminated rainwater or drive to the nearest water tower to truck water back to their homes. After years of legal battles, one of the key pieces of evidence used during Kennedy v the City of Zanesville was a map derived from open data from the water company displaying houses connected to the water line and data showing town demographics. The insights from the map showed significant correlation between the houses occupied by the white residents of Zanesville and the houses hooked up to the city water line, and the case went in favor of the African-American plaintiffs, awarding them a $10.9 million settlement.

Dimension of Impact: Solving Public Problems—Data-Driven Assessment

Key Takeaways:

  • Access to open data, combined with other forms of data, can lead to important insights and evidence of conditions on the ground and how they are impacting different communities—in this case, highlighting systemic inequalities.

  • Awareness of open data is an important first step that may be overlooked, particularly if stakeholders are not particularly data- or tech-savvy.

  • Owners of data sets may add new (or more rigorously enforce ...

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