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FACT SHEET: The Opportunity Project – Unleashing the power of open data to build stronger ladders of opportunity for all Americans

Thursday, October 6, 2016 7:02
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(Before It's News)

“The reason I'm here really is to recruit all of you…how can we start coming up with new platforms, new ideas, new approaches across disciplines and across skill sets to solve some of the big problems that we're facing today?”

– President Barack Obama at SXSW, March 11, 2016

Today the White House is announcing the expansion of the Opportunity Project and the launch of twenty-nine new digital tools built by companies and non-profit organizations to increase access to opportunity in communities across the country.

Although the poverty rate declined more rapidly in 2015 than in nearly fifty years, too many communities still do not have access to the resources and opportunities that residents need to thrive. The unprecedented combination of open data and technological talent that has emerged in recent years can play a critical role in closing that gap, as technologists partner with community leaders to expand access to opportunity in ways that were not previously possible.

The President launched the Opportunity Project in March 2016 to catalyze the creation of new digital tools that use federal and local data to empower communities with information about critical resources, such as affordable housing, quality schools, and jobs. By providing easy access to curated federal and local datasets at, and facilitating collaboration between technologists, issue experts, and community leaders, the Opportunity Project is transforming government data into digital tools that create more just and equitable communities and help people solve problems in their everyday lives.

Since its inception, the Opportunity Project has yielded dozens of new digital tools that help meet needs in communities like finding affordable housing near jobs and transportation, advocating for broader access to opportunity in neighborhoods, and making data-driven investments to increase economic mobility.

Through the Opportunity Project, technologists, local governments, and community groups across the country are answering the President’s call to harness 21st century technology and innovation to expand access to opportunity for all Americans.

Key components of today’s announcements include:

  • Twenty-nine new digital tools built by non-profits, companies, and students, use federal and local data to address a set of national priorities identified by six federal agencies, specifically the Departments of Labor, Transportation, Education, Housing and Urban Development, and Agriculture, and the Office of the Surgeon General with support from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Organizations including Great Schools, MapBox, Airbnb, the University of Oregon, and FitBit collaborated with community members to accelerate progress toward these priorities. They created digital tools that help unemployed Americans build skills and find jobs, increase transit accessibility in low-income communities, help families navigate information on the quality of schools, and tackle other pressing challenges.
  • The Department of Commerce announces its commitment to lead the Opportunity Project moving forward and create a lasting platform for technologists to collaborate with government and local communities using federal open data.
  • New and easier ways to access high-value Federal data on civil rights and course access through the Department of Education’s new Civil Rights Data Collection Application Program Interfaces (APIs), and combined jobs, skills, training and wage data through the Department of Labor’s new OpenSkills API.
  • New commitments from federal government, non-profits, tech companies, coding boot camps, and academic institutions to use the Opportunity Project data and create or use digital tools to build stronger ladders of opportunity nationwide, such as the Department of Labor and Department of Education’s commitment to co-lead a new Opportunity Project challenge, new funding from Coursera for universities to develop courses that use the Opportunity Project data in their curriculum, and more.
  • A call to action from the White House for members of the public to develop new tools, offer additional sources of data, and invent new ways of using open data to make our communities more prosperous, equitable, and just. We want to hear what new steps you are taking or programs you are implementing in your community. 

More Details on Today’s Announcements

Administration actions to expand the Opportunity Project

  • The Department of Commerce will lead the Opportunity Project and create a lasting platform for technologists to collaborate with government and local communities using federal open data. The Department of Commerce will work with federal agencies to curate data sets and articulate core national priorities that would benefit from tech sector engagement, and to encourage the development of digital tools that expand opportunity for all Americans. 
  • The Census Bureau released major updates to, making it even easier for software developers, universities, and community partners to access the Opportunity Project data and existing tools, build new tools, and collaborate with others through a community of practice.
  • In coming weeks, the Department of Education will release new open APIs for its Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) and My Brother’s Keeper Key Statistical Indicators on Boys and Young Men of Color data sets. This data will include information – disaggregated by race, income, and gender – on access to education resources, exclusionary school discipline, violence in the home, and difficulties in accessing affordable housing.
  • The Department of Labor and the University of Chicago’s Center for Data Science and Social Good released a new OpenSkills API to facilitate the development of tools for policymakers, jobseekers, and employers to better understand the needs of 21st century workforce. The OpenSkills API combines jobs, skills, training and wage data from federal agencies such as the Office of Personnel Management’s USAJobs and DOL’s ONET with data from Careerbuilder, ADP Payroll Service, and other private sector companies to provide a more complete and current understanding of the skills required for every job in America. 
  • After leading separate challenges as part of the Opportunity Project, the Department of Labor and the Department of Education will co-lead a challenge to help our nation's most vulnerable workers strengthen their professional networks. Together, the participants who build tools will use the newly released OpenSkills API, mentioned above, and the Department of ED's CRDC API and publicly available DOL enforcement data to develop innovative tools to share workers' rights, educational opportunities, and professional opportunities.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) extends its commitments  to open climate information by sharing the data, maps, and code behind NOAA’s Climate Resilience Toolkit through the Opportunity Project to promote the development of additional innovative applications to help meet the nation's climate challenges.
  • The Social and Behavioral Sciences Team (SBST) will work with federal agencies and tech teams from current and future companies and non-profits participating in the Opportunity Project to apply findings from the social and behavioral sciences and embed methods for rigorously testing what works.

New tools built by companies and non-profits to expand access to opportunity

Today, the White House is highlighting the release of twenty-nine new digital tools using federal open data to address core national priorities. The tools below were built during an eight week software development sprint by non-profits, companies, and students to help families, community leaders, and local officials expand access to jobs, schools, affordable housing, and other resources that are needed to thrive.

The Department of Education identified a national priority to help students, schools, and community leaders navigate information about educational equity and opportunity. The following teams built tools to address this challenge:

  • Data Society and Kitamba worked together to build thePhiladelphia School Community Resource Mapper” to help school leaders find and develop community partnerships, and to help non-profit service providers identify regions where their services can have the greatest impact. They brought together data from the Census Bureau, HHS, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
  • GreatSchools and Education Cities’ “Opportunity Dashboard” uses college readiness data from the Department of Education’s CRDC to measure gaps in access to educational opportunities across student groups to help parents, educators, and advocates fight for equity and improvement.
  • LiveStories built a comparison tool, “LiveStories IQ,” and customizable data briefs using school-level CRDC data to help local school districts and education foundations inform parents and the electorate about the need for more funding to help ensure equal educational access for all.

The Department of Transportation identified a national priority to improve transit access and safety in disadvantaged communities. The following teams built tools for community leaders to address this challenge:

  •’s tool provides dynamic location-based visualizations of hazardous traffic corridors for citizens and community decision-makers, using traffic accident and fatality data from DOT.
  • mySidewalk’s tool provides answers to everyday community questions about traffic fatalities, cost of commuting, mobility for those in poverty, and access to employment by combining datasets from Census, HUD, DOT, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
  • Split’s “Zip Code Commuter Map” displays the volume of commuter flows between zip codes and highlights locations that lack access to transit, using Census data.

The Office of the Surgeon General identified a national priority to promote emotional well-being in communities, and the Department of Veterans Affairs articulated an additional priority to support mental health and suicide prevention. The following teams built tools for individuals, clinicians, researchers and advocates to address these challenges:

  • Fitbit’s tool helps policymakers understand the relationship between average activity and widespread health challenges in every state. It combines aggregated and anonymous activity data from over 10 million Fitbit users with data from the CDC on diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
  • Open Medicine Institute, together with Crisis Text Line, created “TextHelp”, a tool that uses de-identified VA Health System mental health data to assess suicide and other risks in patients and guide them through crisis to supportive resources.
  • mySidewalk’s tool provides answers to everyday community questions regarding food access, housing overcrowding, and economic security by combining datasets from Census, HUD, EPA, and USDA.
  • University of Oregon’s “Effortless Assessment of Risk States (E.A.R.S.)” tool generates risk-state information using data from smartphones on everyday behavior and location-based federal data on nearby hazards and resources such as VA facilities, in order to power precise, life-saving interventions for people in mental health crises.

The Department of Labor identified a national priority to connect people experiencing unemployment with jobs and apprenticeships. The following teams built tools for job-seekers and employers to address this challenge:

  • HackerNest’s “” uses the data from DOL's OpenSkills API and the Office Personnel Management’s USA JOB’s API to help users identify and navigate potential careers in federal government.
  • LinkedIn’s “Training Finder” uses DOL data to surface education options that lead to in-demand careers for job seekers.
  • Pairin’s “JobSeeker” uses DOL’s new OpenSkills API to match individuals to the jobs in their area that provide the greatest opportunity for personal and professional success based on their skills and experiences.
  • Ushahidi’s “Job Postings” combines crowd-sourced job postings and DOL data, to allow organizations to easily share job opportunities and job-seekers to receive timely SMS and email alerts of jobs in their areas.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development identified a national priority to promote housing affordability and access in low-income communities. The following teams built tools for families, service providers, and community leaders to address this challenge:

  • Mapbox’s “Neighborhood Opportunity” helps families searching for homes using a HUD housing choice voucher assess neighborhood amenities and housing affordability using HUD Fair Market Rent data and OpenStreetMap.
  • Measure of America’s “Visualizing Youth Disconnection” identifies areas of need for policymakers and youth services organizations by using HUD data to visualize the relationship between residential segregation and youth disconnection.
  • Loveland’s “FindHome” uses HUD data to help low-income families navigate affordable housing options, combining transit access, walkability, and school information in a single feed of available properties.
  • Airbnb’s “Opportunity Calculator” uses HUD rental data to help families and individuals identify opportunities to cover housing costs by renting an extra room in their home.

The United States Department of Agriculture identified a national priority to help rural communities attract new investment and promote economic growth. The following team built a tool to address this need:

  • Ovela’s “FindYour.Town” improves rural economic resiliency and simplifies the process of identifying funding opportunities with virtual storytelling of our rural American communities and by providing live spatial and funding data from USDA, Census, DOT, and HUD.

The Opportunity Project aims to make it easier for members of the public to use government data to solve challenges in their everyday lives. The following teams are addressing this need:

  •’s “Enhanced Opportunity Project Data Workspace” organizes data from 11 federal agencies and 12 cities, improving the discoverability of the Opportunity Project data, and eases collaboration for educators, civic technologists, hackathon organizers, as well as citizens interested in using the data now and in the future.
  • ESRI’s “Opportunity Enabler Tool” uses a series of opportunity indices from HUD along with other federal, state, and local data, to help make every user’s search for key resources easier, in particular for survivors of domestic violence, LGBT youth experiencing homelessness, and Americans returning to their communities after incarceration.
  • Exygy, a user-centered software design agency, worked with Opportunity Project participants to use human-centered design techniques to build and release products that solve core user needs.
  • Wolfram Research’s “Wolfram Data Repository” incorporates datasets from multiple agencies (including BLS, Census, HUD, HHS, and USDA) to help Wolfram Language researchers and developers rapidly prototype and deploy tools that improve access to opportunity.

The following tools were built by students responding to the national priorities identified by the six federal agencies:

  • Twenty-seven students in the Flatiron School’s NYC iOS Developer program participated in the Opportunity Project and built the seven new apps listed below. Many of these students received scholarships through a partnership with the NYC Tech Talent Pipeline, a program under President Obama’s TechHire initiative that gives low-income New Yorkers skills to launch careers in tech.
    • CareerSpark uses DOL data to guide high school students through career exploration, helping them discover possible trajectories and make an informed educational plan.
    • Community Radar uses HUD data to help users compare locations based on education, income, transportation, and diversity to find information on neighborhoods and take practical steps to move there.
    • FarmSquare allows users to find nearby farmers markets and their products and nutrition information, and to set up grocery lists. 
    • FeedNYC employs geolocation tools and HUD data to locate nearby food pantries and soup kitchens.
    • Greenway NYC promotes healthy, active living by providing users nearby locations of parks, gardens, and farmer’s markets.
    • Safety NYC gives information about what crimes have occurred nearby and includes features to keep users safe, like the ability to quickly dial 911.
    • Walkmore generates walking paths for users and highlights points of interest along the routes. The app encourages users to take longer walks and live active lifestyles.

Additional commitments from the tech sector and universities to expand the reach and impact of the Opportunity Project

  • SkillSmart will use DOL’s OpenSkills API to work with cities, states, and universities to create a skills classification and data tagging algorithm to improve skills data usability‎.
  • Bayes Impact will use DOL’s OpenSkills API to design concepts for a digital career counselor to empower jobseekers by giving them a personalized assessment and recommending viable strategies they can explore to improve their situation.
  • Coursera will launch a competitive process to award financial support for top universities to create courses that use the Opportunity Project federal and local open data to solve pressing challenges using data science and computer science.
  • IDEO will advise future non-profits and companies that participate in the Opportunity Project on human-centered design, collaboration, and data use.
  • The Iron Yard coding school will build on the existing incorporation of Opportunity Project data into their courses and roll out a formal Opportunity Project API, handbook, and data curriculum.
  • The NYU Wagner School of Public Service will interview previous Opportunity Project participants from the tech sector and community groups to capture user feedback, lessons learned, and stories of impact.
  • The Maryland Institute College of Art is offering a course in which students are using the Opportunity Project to evaluate data, tech, and design and identify areas for them to improve access to opportunity in Baltimore.
  • The University of California, Davis will integrate Opportunity Project data into its existing data science initiatives and courses, coordinate calls for interdisciplinary subject matter experts, and engage networks of diverse social equity-oriented partners to participate in the Opportunity Project.

Previous Opportunity Project participants continue to increase access to opportunity in communities around the country

Highlights of the progress and impact of the digital tools released in March 2016:

  • Esri incorporated the Opportunity Project’s data into their ArcGIS platform and also developed a new application harnessing the data.
  • Measure of America’s “Data2go.NYC,” a tool that provides up-to-date information on neighborhood assets, has reached tens of thousands of users, including policymakers, social service delivery organizations, and advocates working to reduce poverty and inequality in the city. For example: 
    • A Councilmember is using Data2Go.NYC to focus on his district’s greatest challenges.
    • City health agencies and organizations used the tool to decide on language translations and dissemination of vital health information
    • Libraries have used the tool to identify areas with the greatest need for wifi hotspots.
  • PolicyLink added new datasets to its “National Equity Atlas” to help communities and policymakers understand economic inclusion and access to opportunity. PolicyLink’s partners were able to use these datasets to identify opportunities for improving Atlanta’s economy.
  • Redfin’s “Opportunity Score,” is a tool that uses Opportunity Project data to show users jobs they can access from affordable homes within 30 minutes or less without a car and helps real estate agents and developers identify communities with demand for new housing within reach of employment centers  It is now available in over 350 cities across the country. In partnership with MIT, Redfin also used Opportunity Score in new research on the relationship between job accessibility, housing costs, and economic mobility.
  • Socrata developed a tool that allows users to access geographic opportunity data programmatically or via API. Tens of thousands of users have accessed the Open Data Network since Socrata included Opportunity Project data.

Highlights of progress on commitments made in March 2016 to develop new tools, offer additional sources of data, and deepen community engagement through the use of the data:

  • Code for America launched an Opportunity Project challenge as part of the National Day of Civic Hacking, a nationwide day of action when software developers, federal and local governments, designers, non-profits, and residents collaborate on challenges posed by federal agencies and local governments. For example, in Austin, 250 people used the Opportunity Project’s data to build an app, “”, for corporate giving campaigns to make smarter, local giving decisions based on actual needs and real data. 
  • The Los Angeles Promise Zone partnered on #Hack4Equality, a seven-week hackathon to combat issues in the LGBTQ community through technology development. Nearly 300 developers used open data from the Opportunity Project to build innovative applications that would tackle LGBTQ homelessness and inequality. The grand prize winner was “LooBot,” an SMS chatbot that seeks to connect those without wifi access to gender-neutral restrooms and locate charging outlets. The runner-up was “,” a website that simplifies transgender identity change documentation.
  • The National Data Science Organizers (NDSO), a group of connected data science non-profits, meetups, and schools, partnered with the non-profit LRNG to build an online civic-tech course for youth 13-24 years of age. This course was built using Opportunity Project data to teach civic technology and data skills, while helping youth both learn about and serve the needs of their local communities with government data.
  • Neighborland partnered with Bay Area Rapid Transit to demonstrate the capabilities of their platform for transportation advocacy organizations. Partners can now visualize open data from DOT, HUD, and Census Bureau through an integration with mySidewalk at no additional cost.
  • The Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP) empowered community members in Long Beach, New York City, Greensboro and Seattle to directly decide how to spend local budget funds by connecting community decision-makers with Opportunity Project data. PBP is developing a new online hub for participatory budgeting data, drawing on Opportunity Project data, to help community members find and understand information about their neighborhoods.
  • RISE(3) (Research in Social, Economic and Environmental Equity) at Boston College School of Social Work launched a research study using Opportunity Project data. RISE(3) completed an analysis of access to, use of, and time required by various forms of transportation, and how they intersect with race, place and income. RISE(3) has also begun a second analysis using federal data to examine access to and cost of childcare based on race and income.

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