Data Accessibility as a Pathway to Genuine Equality for Atlanta's Westside Communities

Laura Kathrn O'Connell, Mackenzie Madden, Sheri Davis-Faulkner

Data is a dominant force during the decision-making process. It can help determine which roads to expand and the optimal location for a grocery store. Data can also be used to influence which schools to open or to shutter and "appropriate" city services to continue or discontinue. Considered fact-based, objective, and impartial, data can trump emotional appeals during the final evaluation of a project; thus creating a power imbalance between those with the resources to access data and those without. Most often left behind are communities already struggling to stay afloat due to years of disinvestment by market forces and external decision-makers. For long ignored residents in Atlanta's Westside neighborhoods, the burden of inaccessible data continuously thwarts their opportunity for mobility. However, with the advent of the internet and the global push for open data, access to information is no longer solely in the hands of those with power, influence and money. Online tools, like the Westside Communities Alliance (WCA) Data Dashboard, quickly disseminate data to those most impacted by "data driven decision-making," thus creating the potential of a genuinely equitable society. Based out of the Georgia Institute of Technology, the WCA works to build and sustain relationships among constituencies located in West Atlanta with the goal to strengthen partnerships around issues of common concern. The creation of the Data Dashboard stemmed from a recognized community desire for more localized control and the need for improvements to the communities' overall prosperity. Development of the site progressed through significant engagement between the WCA, community groups, and local agencies. The Dashboard takes the vast abundance of data and synthesizes it into a format that is both visually and geographically user-friendly. Through different portals, users can access neighborhood-level data around demographics, housing, education, and history that is formatting in a way that is easily accessible and understandable. The site includes qualitative research that goes beyond data and stats to give a totality of the community. By allowing West Atlanta advocacy groups to easily retrieve data, the WCA Data Dashboard empowers residents, nonprofits, and neighborhood associations to be full participants in the decision-making process.

Knowledge Graph

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