Each week we will bring you a summary of what happened this week on our site, on Twitter, and in the wider world of civic data. Suggest stories on Twitter with #ThisWeekInData.
Here on Data-Smart, Stephen Goldsmith outlined five steps cities can take to compete with large tech companies and attract talented analysts, systems architects, and coders to their data and IT offices. Goldsmith suggested that cities invest in their job descriptions, develop partnerships with academic institutions, offer substantive internship opportunities, create tech-savvy work conditions, and post and hire quickly.
Stephen Goldsmith also wrote an article highlighting South Bend’s success setting strategic goals that have helped Mayor Buttigieg deliver on the city’s priorities and increase accountability. In 2013, the city set the goal of addressing 1,000 vacant properties in 1,000 days, tackling a public priority in a visible way that allowed citizens to track the city’s progress. The city’s commitment to addressing blighted properties was measurable and available on the city’s website, which allowed local media to pick up on a bug in the tracking system, galvanizing changes in the way the city tracked progress. In the end, the city reached its goal two months ahead of schedule.
StateScoop profiled Boston’s use of an energy monitoring tool that allows officials to use real-time measurements to guide their decisions and recommendations for energy operations, which the city estimates will save between $700,000 and $900,000 annually. For example, city energy manager Adam Jacobs worked with the Boston Public Library in Copley Square to reduce its energy use between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. – peak hours during which Boston’s utility companies charge at higher rates—saving $40,000 annually at this one building alone. The tool also allows officials to monitor energy use remotely, so when a large snowstorm closed city buildings and Jacobs noticed that the library was still using energy as if it was open, he was able to notify the engineers and have them adjust.
Also in Boston, the city launched its new open data hub, Analyze Boston. The new platform boasts an attractive new UX and hopes to make the city’s data easier to find, access, and use for a broad audience.
GovTech featured Denver’s 311 system upgrade, which includes social listening capabilities that will allow the city to track and aggregate local online conversations via social media. The city’s old 311 system produced high call abandonment rates, requests were not always seen immediately, and residents were not notified of results. Denver’s new platform lets residents make service requests and receive responses through the city’s mobile app pocketgov, loops in Twitter and Facebook 311 pages, and offers smart word routing, whereby the software uses key words to route requests to the appropriate divisions.
GovTech also discussed two open data reports released by Seattle’s Open Data Program—a 2016 Annual Report documenting the program’s recent past and a 2017 Open Data Plan that outlines the program’s future. The 2016 report highlights all that has been accomplished since Mayor Ed Murray signed an executive order requiring all of the city’s data to be “open by preference”—meaning after privacy and security have been accounted for, the city’s preference will be to publish all data. The 2017 plan sets priorities that will build upon the progress of 2016, including increasing open data to encourage innovation and improving data use by city agencies.
Also on the topic of open data, Government Executive detailed the value created by the federal government’s efforts towards open data. During President Barack Obama’s tenure, the government took a number of steps to encourage open data, including the 2009 Open Government initiative, a 2013 executive order, and the 2014 Open Data initiative. Taken together, these initiatives established a one-stop website for government data, Data.gov, and have encouraged federal agencies to make their data increasingly open and accessible. Thanks to these efforts, the federal government has created tools that have edified and empowered citizens, such as the College Scorecard, which displays metrics that inform college decisions.
Diginomica discussed Living Cities’ City Accelerator initiative, designed as a forum for collaboration between cities in Harvard Kennedy School’s Project on Municipal Innovation Advisory Group (PMI-AG), a group of chiefs of staff from the 35 largest cities in the US. The initiative hopes to not only share best practices among cities, but also expose cities to subject matter experts, as well as provide participants with funding and technical assistance. City Accelerator has thus far introduced three cohorts: the first comprised Philadelphia, Louisville, and Nashville, and focused on using innovation to benefit low-income residents; the second cohort of Atlanta, Albuquerque, New Orleans, Baltimore, and Seattle worked to improve community engagement; and the third cohort of Pittsburgh, St Paul, San Francisco, and Washington DC is working on infrastructure finance.
The Intelligent Community Institute at Mississippi State University published a Digital Divide Index (DDI), a county-level index score from 0 to 100 measuring the digital divide—the gap between those who have ready access to technology and the Internet and those who do not. The index was created using data on the development of infrastructure for and adoption of broadband, as well as socioeconomic characteristics that are known to lag in technology adoption. Researchers created three maps based on this data, one displaying county-level digital divide, another displaying state-level data, and a third displaying data based on Census tract.