Next year, public officials will much more aggressively begin weaving their technology threads into a larger tapestry as the cute and helpful become vital and mainstream. Last year, hackathons and mobile apps proliferated on a growing foundation of open data.
Next year will herald a more widespread substantive use of data and technology to significantly increase the efficiency and effectiveness of local government. But much depends upon how well government integrates data and hardware offerings. As the McKinsey Global Institute reports, the combination of opening data and applying analytics could generate more than $3 trillion annually in new businesses and products as well as increased productivity.
Hot subjects for next year will include:
As public-sector databases grow more sophisticated, more policymakers will use predictive analytics to target government services, identify trends and refine operations. Falling costs of data storage, memory and higher-speed computing will make analytics more powerful and available. Chicago will launch its open source predictive analytics platform next year, which will allow other cities to more easily understand the power of prediction.
Different departments in government build their own data sets, often with conflicting standards and formats. It has been difficult for analysts to navigate these data silos, but that will likely change in 2014 as more cities understand that powerful new tools make these previously hardened silos permeable. In New York City, many agencies providing health and human services have connected their data sets under an initiative called HHS-Connect. The recently announced collaboration between SAS and SAP, two major IT vendors, could also yield new processes that eliminate data duplication and ease reconciliation.
With New York and Chicago leading the way, 2014 will see the emergence of a new class of 311 offerings that move it from a call center to a community platform. The widespread use of Internet-enabled smartphones means that a telephone hotline is no longer enough; residents want to interact with their local governments through social media, mobile apps and texts. These new 311 platforms will include better apps like Citizens Connect, an approach created by the Boston Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics that allows people to submit geotagged photos of potholes and other problems and also track the city’s response.
A new group of civic startups has created successful apps and other services from open government data, supported by programs like the Code for America Accelerator. As the total number of public data sets across the country increases exponentially, the opportunity for third-party use that makes government information more valuable to the public will grow. Data standards and open source development will allow lower-cost adoption and repurposing of other cities’ projects.
In October, Chicago launched its Data Dictionary, a catalog that will house metadata for all of the public data sets maintained by the city. While many cities have begun opening up their data, jargon and peculiar formatting limit the user friendliness of these data sets. Data dictionaries represent one element of a public education initiative that can help push the value of open data past token transparency and toward real public value.
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.