Wake County Partnership w/ Yelp

Yikes – can’t believe how long it has been since I’ve posted! It’s been very much head down and nose to the grindstone around here for a long while now. But I am taking a breather to make sure I mention something we’ve done recently that I am very proud to be a part of.

ImageAs you are probably aware, Yelp is the most prominent online guide for places to eat, shop, relax, etc. People can write reviews on Yelp to provide their opinions and experiences about certain locales.

Wake County, regularly conducts sanitation inspections at more than 2,600 restaurants and for years we’ve posted the information to our website. In order to be more transparent and to provide access to this information in high traffic places, we recently partnered with Yelp. We push a daily data feed of sanitation scores daily to Yelp so viewers to the site will automatically see a restaurant’s inspection score right next to its customer reviews. Clicking through the scores also provides users with a high-level summary of the infractions in an easy to understand summary. This helps to serve people of the community and visitors in a broader way. It is “one-stop shopping” that provides users with peer reviews and official results all in one friendly package.

One of the best parts of this endeavor is that there were no direct costs associated with this project, only a small amount of staff hours to set up the data connection and to make sure that the information was consistent with Yelp’s “tone”.

This really was a no-brainer. We were already collecting and publicly providing the data, albeit in a somewhat out of the way page on our site. Yelp was already the recognized leader in crowsourced restaurant reviews. So the question was, why would we NOT do this? It was all but free, it provides great customer service, it gets our valuable info to a place where people are already looking for such info and it promotes the Wake County goal of transparency!


Below is a sampling of the great coverage the project got in the media and among open data and government transparency thought leaders. This might give you some ideas about how to apply it in your own locality.

Wake County Infographics

A few weeks ago I did an ignite style presentation about Wake County’s use of infographics in front of a group of large city/county CIOs. It was very well received and it generated a lot of questions from my peers. Government Technology wrote a great article building on our experience and we continue to consider ideas for our next infographic option. But perhaps the highlight came when GovGirl covered our story and her mad design skillz put our infographics to shame. Check out her work here:

Four CIOs Discuss the Future of IT

Last week I had the opportunity to discuss my thoughts on the evolution of the role of the government CIO with Government Technology magazine. The interview became part of an article that provided an interesting cross-section of opinions from four government CIOs:

  • David Behen, CIO, State of Michigan
  • Bill Oates, CIO, City of Boston, MA
  • Jonathan Reichental, CIO, City of Palo Alto, CA
  • Me, CIO, Wake County, NC

Of course we all had our own take on the role and its evolution, but we all definitely shared the common focus of needing to enable organizational goals. We are (or should be) the enablers and the innovators with an eye on the business. I thought it was interesting how much the roles we defined  in the article tied back to the article I did back in August called So You Think You Want to Be a Government CIO? (which coincidentally remains as one of the most popular posts I have ever written).

As always, I am thrilled when I am referenced in the same article with heavy-hitters like David, Jonathan and Bill. The popularity of that post of mine, and the focus of this article, reassures me that I am not alone in my thinking about how our roles are evolving. But more importantly, it also tells me that it is continuing to evolve. Everybody is always learning, always growing – and that it perhaps one of the most vital (and often understated) functions of our role!