By now, we’ve all heard about that buzzword big data and how such technology is shaping our world in new ways. In a recent article, The Wall Street Journal said that the promise of big data is now beginning to show big results, in everything from consumer products to medical advances.
Big data is a trend that we can expect to continue in the public sector in the form of open data. The city of Little Rock recently announced its partnership with What Works Cities, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies.
The partner agencies we are working with — Results for America, the Government Performance Lab at Harvard Kennedy School, the Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University — will help us accelerate the use of our own data to improve the lives of our citizens.
By embarking on this What Works Cities project, we plan to lead the charge as the state’s largest city to bring more transparency and accountability to local government. Little Rock will be the first municipality in Arkansas to do so at this level.
Why? It’s simple, really.
We believe that an educated citizenry is a better citizenry. We think that in this data-driven society, it is our responsibility to offer creative solutions to issues our citizens face, to be proactive in sharing information in the form of data sets and to provide the resources for more robust engagement with our publics, whether it’s a media outlet, a local university’s graduate class in information quality, an app developer or a group of concerned residents.
It all comes back to this one question that all cites ask: How can we improve the quality of life for our citizens?
First, we can empower our residents through information. Through Socrata, Little Rock’s new online information portal, we have already published several data sets ranging from 311 requests to police and fire information. The potential is there for many, many more in this self- service format. It is our duty to ensure that the work we do be transparent and accessible.
Second, we can use our own data to make better, more informed decisions. Little Rock’s vision is to be a leading city of the 21st century. We can work smarter to achieve this goal by improving efficiencies, pinpointing bottlenecks and adjusting course where needed. By using the right data, we can address the biggest needs in our community. From predictive policing to real-time budget analysis, data can be utilized in every area of city government.
To make all of this a reality, we are taking a strategic approach to develop and implement practices that will allow for the release of data to the public. In Little Rock, we drafted a resolution that announces our intent to move forward on this initiative full speed.
We’ll be creating an Open Data policy and establishing a governance committee to keep this What Works Cities project at the forefront of our jobs. It’s the first of many steps we will take to embrace open data.
This will transform how we work for our citizens and improve engagement. From the mountains of data stored in spreadsheets, filing cabinets and silos, we now will be able to glean information, turn that information into knowledge and use that knowledge in our decision making.
As city manager, I am thrilled that Little Rock is joining other cities such as Boston, Chattanooga, New Orleans, Raleigh and Tulsa in this What Works Cities initiative, which brings world-class experts to our cities to help us address local issues using big data. I am committed to improving our public services through data, and I’ve asked our city’s departments to embrace this initiative to not only share data sets to strengthen accountability but also use them internally to improve performance management.
I encourage citizens and other municipalities to explore our data portal and offer feedback. We welcome that dialogue as part of the open data process.
It will take technology to become a leading city of the 21st century. Data will unlock so much for us and our citizens, improving Little Rock in big ways.