Cal State LA awarded nearly $1 million to increase data accessibility in Los Angeles

October 17, 2018

By Nene Ogbechie | Cal State LA News Service

Cal State LA has been awarded a nearly $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to increase data accessibility and promote civic engagement among students and underserved communities in Los Angeles.

The grant will establish a partnership between Cal State LA, the city of Los Angeles, Community Partners and the Social Equity Engagement geo-Data Scholars (SEEDS) to increase access and use of the city’s big data collection.

Through the partnership, training will be provided to residents and nonprofits using the city’s open data portal and GeoHub, a first-of-its-kind geospatial open data platform created by Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office for exploring, visualizing, and downloading location-based open data. The goal of the grant project is to empower city residents—especially those in traditionally underserved and digitally disconnected areas—and nonprofits to engage in civic decision-making.

“This grant will enable Cal State LA to serve our communities in new and innovative ways,” said William A. Covino, president of Cal State LA. “With the information this partnership makes available, residents will be better equipped to advocate for their communities.”

Cal State LA is committed to engagement, service, and the public good and is ranked number one in the nation for the upward mobility of its students. The university’s central role in uplifting and transforming the economy and social well-being of Los Angeles and the region was recently recognized by the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities. Cal State LA was one of 33 universities across the nation and the only public university in California selected as an anchor institution by CUMU and The Democracy Collaborative.

Cal State LA will also introduce GeoHub, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software, and data-driven decision-making to students by weaving big data education into undergraduate and graduate curricula through civic engagement and service learning opportunities with the university’s nonprofit partners.

Dean Pamela Scott-Johnson “Cal State LA will act as a catalyst and play an important role in supporting and promulgating open data and open source software among constituents and residents in the greater Los Angeles region,” said Pamela Scott-Johnson, dean of the College of Natural and Social Sciences and principal investigator for the grant. “I believe that tapping into the resources and expertise of the university—which is deeply rooted in the community—is the best way to connect data-haves to data-needs and the most sustainable and effective way to tackle big data equity challenges.”

This partnership will allow Cal State LA students to work closely with nonprofits to train the organizations in assessing and analyzing data specific to their areas of interest.

Local nonprofit Community Partners, which provides expert guidance, essential services and support to more than 150 social good programs and initiatives, will connect Cal State LA students to community organizations that can benefit from access to the city’s open data portal.

“Putting data into the hands of those working to affect change in communities of greatest need is crucial and we are excited to be a part of this promising new partnership,” said Phyllis Owens, a senior program director for Community Partners. “That the model also connects young people to the nonprofit sector is another indicator of its potential for deep impact.”

The partnership will provide an innovative way to make data accessible and understandable, allowing students and city residents to work toward positive change in their communities.

“This grant opens up a world of opportunities to train students on how they can leverage city data to advocate for their neighborhoods,” said Sari Ladin-Sienne, chief data officer in the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office of Budget and Innovation. “We will now be able to reach one of the overarching goals of open data: creating a community of practice where data ignites new conversations within a neighborhood with city officials, sparking meaningful community change.”

Image credit: Shutterstock. Photo: Pamela Scott-Johnson, dean of the College of Natural and Social Sciences at Cal State LA. (Credit: J. Emilio Flores/Cal State LA)

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California State University, Los Angeles is the premier comprehensive public university in the heart of Los Angeles. Cal State LA is ranked number one in the United States for the upward mobility of its students. Cal State LA is dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good, offering nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education, and the humanities. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 28,000 students and has more than 245,000 distinguished alumni.

Cal State LA is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center, Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility, Billie Jean King Sports Complex and the TV, Film and Media Center. For more information, visit