Community

Earlier this year, Grace Simrall took the top job in the city’s innovation office. She oversees the city’s open data portal and works to support entrepreneurial growth in Louisville.

Simrall is picking up where her predecessor, Ted Smith, left off. She’s working to open an innovation lab in downtown Louisville and helping the city bring ultra high speed internet to residents. Simrall considers herself the “front door to public-private partnerships.”

She’s a former entrepreneur, too. Simrall founded iGlass Analytics and was more recently the executive director of innovation for Intel Care Innovations.

grace simrallLouisville Metro Government

Grace Simrall

I spoke with her about the city’s open data initiative — its advantages, its future and the potential to make it a permanent fixture in Louisville.

The open data initiative was created by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer in a 2013 executive order. This means it can be repealed by future administrations.

When asked if there is any effort from city to ensure the open data initiative is protected by ordinance, Simrall said that would “premature.”

Listen to our conversation in the audio player above.

What do you say to people within the city to incentivize making data open by default?

“It’s one of those things where it is a big cultural sea-change for us. So, if we can demonstrate to our agencies that this will actually empower them to do their jobs more easily and better, that’s a really compelling message. By encouraging them and coaching them to release this information so that it helps them do their job better, that’s the tact we’re certainly taking.”

What do you want to see public that isn’t currently public?

“We are doing an audit right now of what data sources are available that are not public, for a number of reasons. Certainly, an initiative is to just get a sense of all of the data that is available.”

What are the benefits from having this data publicly available?

“A good starting point is to talk about how we internally use this information across agencies. We’re very proud of our work on fire detectors in vacant and abandoned properties. That was a collaboration between public works, the Louisville Fire Department and the Vacant and Abandoned Property Administration all together looking at their previously siloed data sets and realizing that there is an opportunity to really increase fire safety by addressing fires that start in these properties and spread to occupied homes. We are going to model how we can use data to really impact our citizens lives.”

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Jacob Ryan is a reporter for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.