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NYC Lays Groundwork for Citywide Data Governance Program

The NYC Office of Technology and Innovation’s Office of Data Analytics is convening a series of meetings for working groups to establish a citywide data governance program and guidance on data use.

digital rendering of a smart city depicting cyan-colored skyscrapers over dark background with points to represent data.
Starting this month, the NYC Office of Technology and Innovation’s Office of Data Analytics (ODA) will start to convene working groups to establish a citywide data governance program and create citywide guidance on data use.

The ultimate goal for this initiative is to help deliver on one of the strategic priorities of Mayor Eric Adams’ administration, which is to leverage city resources to create a strong foundation for more holistic technology and data use, according to NYC Chief Analytics Officer Martha Norrick.

Governments are pushing data beyond spreadsheets and silos, enabling it to more effectively inform decisions and planning. Data can help government better serve vulnerable populations when used thoughtfully.

Many city agencies collect information in the course of their operations, and part of the goal of this particular initiative is to ensure that all of this data is well-documented, high-quality and easy to share with agency partners.

The working groups will be made up of a range of city staff, with representatives from different city agencies bringing their perspective to specific questions around data governance. Some agencies may have representatives in multiple groups. These groups can also work with community experts or other governments to explore best practices and standards for collecting and managing data.

The groups will be working under the umbrella of a steering committee, comprised of individuals from different agencies with some type of data-related or data leadership role. They will review feedback and recommendations from the working groups before setting the agenda of the next working session, which will continually take place in ongoing six-month increments.

As Norrick explained, people are looking for a range of data governance guidance, and this repository of knowledge will be built over time through these working cycles.

The ultimate goal is to create a library of knowledge, starting with an online hub the city expects to have available for internal use by the end of this year. This hub will be the place city employees go to find data governance, standards, documentation, guidance, contacts, data sets and other resources.

Two initial priority topics for these working groups will be related to personal data and geocoding tools. According to Norrick, this is important because these represent the two major data questions for a government entity.

“Who people are and where they are are two of the really critical pieces of information to help make service delivery as smooth and seamless as possible,” Norrick said.

Because of the size of the city, there are some inherent and unique challenges in making sure data that is available is being used to the greatest extent possible. Notably, this data governance initiative will help support the agency’s goal to leverage data to serve constituents more equitably and more efficiently.

She said this initiative will also help the city to understand the ways different agencies collect data through an equity lens to better understand how New Yorkers may experience services differently based on their location or other characteristics. This effort starts with disaggregating data to see where aggregation might make it hard to see such differences across populations.

Norrick explained that ODA’s goal is to make the structure of these groups agile enough to address evolving questions and needs related to data.

And with a solid data governance foundation, the city will be better prepared to serve constituents in other ways with technology — from AI, which Norrick said good data is the foundation for, to digital equity, which starts with a data-informed understanding of need.
Julia Edinger is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Toledo and has since worked in publishing and media. She's currently located in Southern California.