This story was originally published on Data-Smart City Solutions.
Last week, Bloomberg Philanthropies released a brief on The City Hall Data Gap, which analyzed the applications to the What Works Cities program and concluded that “a wide gap exists between cities’ desire and their ability to implement data- and evidence-based practices.” There are still significant barriers to the use of data in cities: applicants cited factors including lack of staff and revenue resources, limited knowledge and expertise in this area, lack of trust in the data currently generated by city systems, and old and incompatible systems for data collection and analysis.
I have been working for decades to promote innovation in government. In my time serving in city government as well as my work at Harvard Kennedy School, I have observed these and more obstacles -- as well as heroic efforts to overcome them. The successes we have seen from leading cities in using data to improve the lives of their residents prove that data efforts are not only possible, but imperative. These inspiring stories, from New York City preventing fire deaths to Chicago avoiding foodborne illness, have reanimated the conversation about effective government. The value proposition of using data to make government work better has never been clearer: 40 percent of eligible midsized cities applied within six weeks of the What Works Cities program launch. We have reached a critical moment in the field, where data-driven government is now a focus for cities of all sizes and budgets.
As more cities embark on the path to data-driven governance, they should keep the following keys to success in mind:
With these tactics, cities can help create value for their residents and unlock the potential of responsive governance through the informed use of data and evidence.
Stephen Goldsmith is the Daniel Paul Professor of the Practice of Government and the Director of the Innovations in American Government Program at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. He previously served as Deputy Mayor of New York and Mayor of Indianapolis, where he earned a reputation as one of the country's leaders in public-private partnerships, competition and privatization. Stephen was also the chief domestic policy advisor to the George W. Bush campaign in 2000, the Chair of the Corporation for National and Community Service, and the district attorney for Marion County, Indiana from 1979 to 1990. He has written The Power of Social Innovation; Governing by Network: the New Shape of the Public Sector; Putting Faith in Neighborhoods: Making Cities Work through Grassroots Citizenship; The Twenty-First Century City: Resurrecting Urban America, and The Responsive City: Engaging Communities through Data-Smart Governance.