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Website makes regional data available to public

It’s a data-geek’s delight: A coalition of Pioneer Valley agencies have launched a new website to share information they’ve collected about the region: its health, roads and bridges, population, housing and more.

This website, known as the Pioneer Valley Data Portal, is a collaborative initiative of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, the Economic Development Council of Western Mass., the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County, and the Franklin Regional Council of Governments.

The data, about the region stretching from the Vermont border into central Connecticut, is from the U.S. Census but also from databases collected or created by members of the Regional Organizations Advanced Data Sharing partnership, anchored at the Springfield-based planning agency.

It includes statistics on poverty, health, crime, education, employment, transportation and housing and can be used by businesses, nonprofit organizations, towns or other entities for their own planning efforts, said Jessica Atwood of the Franklin COG, which joined ROADS a year ago.

“This was a way, since everybody’s collecting this data already, to put it in an online database that different parties can access,” she said.

“The part I’m most excited about is the opportunity for these organizations to work together, and then find other partners and develop new data sets,” added Atwood. That new data could then be made more readily available for any organization and for the public at large.

The kinds of data include everything from asthma-related hospitalizations to miles of bike paths, and Atwood said that she imagines future collaborations with organizations that could provide data about the number of home sales or jobs posted.

The idea is not to duplicate existing sources of easily accessible data such as the Census Bureau or the Bureau of Labor Statistics information, but to be a collective resource of information that can be difficult for the inexperienced user to find, to capture those data sets in a database and then keep them updated.

“This is a great example of how regional organizations in the Pioneer Valley are collaborating to use our resources in a more efficient and coordinated manner,” said Pioneer Valley Planning Commission Executive Director Timothy W. Brennan. “Sharing approaches to data use is just one of many ways that our organizations communicate and strategize with each other on a regular basis.”

Go to www.PioneerValleyData.org.

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