If you browse our blog, you might come across a few posts about data expansion from the past few years. Some of our larger efforts have included the addition of 50 new cities in Canada and 200 of the largest cities in the United States. A frequent question we get from customers is: when and why do you expand your data coverage? While new data is always useful to people, our efforts might appear arbitrary. We wanted to shine a light on the reasoning behind our decisions.
Our mission is to be the global resource for elected official information and geographic data on elections and democracy. Practically speaking, this means that we intend one day to provide legislative district and elected official data for every democracy in the world, at every level of government.
Pretty lofty, we know. We’re building our way up: currently, we cover data for 9 countries, but as part of that mission, we continue to grow our reach each year, and we do so primarily to serve our users.
When do we add new data?
When we first built Cicero, we started off by adding data in our home city of Philadelphia, and a variety of other areas we thought would be broadly useful to people. Today, there are three different situations for which we’d undertake a data expansion. Most of the time, new data is added to Cicero based on a customer request. We love to get these! We spend so much time and effort maintaining our data, that we want to make sure it’s going to be utilized. When a customer comes to us and asks us to add a new locality, for example, we typically share the cost of the work for the initial expansion, and then commit to keeping that location up to date for the life of Cicero. That’s right, if we’ve added something new, we’ll commit to maintaining it forever.
We put significant weight on customer requests, because it represents a real need. However, we know that for much larger expansion efforts, it might be unreasonable to lean entirely on our users. For that reason, we also apply for grants to help us expand our reach and potentially fund new methods of data collection and maintenance. This is a focus area on our roadmap this year.
Finally, we are open to partnering with organizations who have shared goals. This work is complicated and time consuming, and we’ve built up over a decade of institutional knowledge on how to maintain a dataset of elected offices that is constantly in flux. We’d be happy to partner with other organizations to work together to collect and maintain data about political geographies.
How to stay up to date
When we undertake a major expansion, such as adding 20 new cities or more to the database, you can be sure we’ll write a blog about it. But for smaller additions, folks have asked: what is the best way to be notified about expanded coverage? Currently, our monthly newsletter is the best way to stay on top of any added jurisdictions. However, this year we’re planning to launch a new API endpoint that programmatically returns information about the state of our data coverage. That way our users will know about new data the moment it gets added to the database. Stay tuned for more information about how you can access this in the coming months!
We’re intent on building the largest database of elected officials and legislative districts in the world, and we’re committed to doing so by placing our users first. If you want to work with us, or would like to see us expand our coverage to a new location, reach out and let us know!