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Atlanta is big into data. In addressing the challenges of a rapidly increasing population, the city is trying to work smarter, not harder, and CIO Samir Saini has taken the lead in that effort. It’s not enough to do pilot projects for the sake of demonstrating what’s possible, Saini said, but to really focus on understanding what solutions will work.
To understand those issues in depth, Atlanta’s IT department has been gathering big data in order to run advanced analytics. In part out of necessity, the city is transforming itself to be smarter by leveraging data to be descriptive, prescriptive and predictive.
An obvious outcome from an increased population is more traffic congestion on roads and freeways. Atlanta is working on a project that leverages machine-learning algorithms to create a safer environment for drivers. By combining more than 10 data sources covering 140,000 accidents, the program aims to predict traffic patterns, and to give a good idea of where an accident will happen and how severe any injuries may be.
The city also is targeting water main breaks and predictable crimes through looking at patterns in the data. “But we can’t do it alone,” said Saini. “We have partnered with Georgia Tech to provide the data science resources to do the big data analytics and machine-learning work to develop the algorithms.”
All of this work would not have been possible without the whole team in the Department of Information Management, said Saini. The city’s IT has been consolidated since he was brought on board in July 2014. “We built the right structure to support the city,” he said. “We have had to come up with a way to stitch it all together at all layers.” By centralizing resources, Saini and his team created common security information protocols and moved several services to the cloud. One project that Saini beamed with pride while discussing was ConnectHome, a federally backed program that spurs Internet equity for residents in assisted housing units. Atlanta brought connectivity to more than 1,500 children who previously had no Internet access at their homes in 2016 and is on target to connect 5,000 by the end of the year. “This is easily the most meaningful,” said Saini. Government Technology Editor Noelle Knell presented Samir Saini with his Top 25 award in Atlanta on March 29.