Pittsburgh innovation roadmap

Pittsburgh on the road to ‘inclusive innovation’

In September, the Steel City launched the Pittsburgh Roadmap for Inclusive Innovation, a strategy to facilitate residents’ participation in the New Economy, improve the city’s capacity to serve the public through data-driven services and increase resilience by strengthening the clean tech and local business sectors.

According to the roadmap’s website, 43 percent of the plans drafted to support those goals are underway, but but there’s much more work to be done.

“We’ve launched the roadmap and that it’s been great, but there’s still a lot to do. The fact is that it’s an evolving, living document, so it’ll never be done,” Debra Lam, the city’s chief innovation and performance officer, told GCN in a Dec. 18 interview. “We’ll never accomplish ‘inclusive innovation’ and be done with it. It’s always evolving, it’s always something we’re progressing and working on.” 

That progress includes:

Regional data center. One of the roadmap’s big projects is the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center, a partnership between Allegheny County, the city and the University of Pittsburgh, whose Center for Urban and Social Research manages the data center.

The WPRDC provides a technological and legal infrastructure for data sharing to support key community initiatives by making public information easier to find and use.  The data center maintains open data portals for Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh and provides a number of services to data publishers and users. It also hosts datasets from a variety of local public sector agencies, academic institutions and non-profit organizations.

“We’ve released our first set of data though [WPRDC], and since then we’ve released over 100 different datasets that the public can use,” Lam said. “We’ve also done initial user training and [built] applications of the data, which is very exciting for us.”

MetroLab Network. Also in September, the city, in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, joined the White House’s MetroLab Network, a program of 20 cities and more than 25 universities across the country  committed to research, develop and deploy technology-enabled solutions to help address common challenges facing cities.

“The White House initiative has bloomed into something significant in urban decision making” that helps cities share information with other members of the network, Lam said. “For example, all cities have issues with storm water drainage and urban infrastructure. With [the MetroLab Network] there’s some really good green infrastructure research and applications that can be piloted in one city and, if successful, can be utilized in other cities in the network.”

Social media. Pittsburgh’s Citywide Social Media Policy lays out guidelines for how city accounts will be managed with the goal of increasing coordinated communication, publicizing social media channels and integrating social media into existing outreach, through the Office of Community Affairs.

Green tech. Improvements to the clean energy sector include equipping five city-owned buildings with  diagnostic dashboards to report indoor air quality and energy and water consumption. The project is part of the city's partnerships with CMU.

Metrics. When the new year starts, the city will look to find more ways to measure the work it has been able to do.  “How do we know that his project moved the city toward more inclusive innovation? How do we define that?” Lam asked. “So we’ll be looking at some metrics and indicators to evaluate the performance of that.”

About the Author

Derek Major is a former reporter for GCN.


  • Records management: Look beyond the NARA mandates

    Pandemic tests electronic records management

    Between the rush enable more virtual collaboration, stalled digitization of archived records and managing records that reside in datasets, records management executives are sorting through new challenges.

  • boy learning at home (Travelpixs/Shutterstock.com)

    Tucson’s community wireless bridges the digital divide

    The city built cell sites at government-owned facilities such as fire departments and libraries that were already connected to Tucson’s existing fiber backbone.

Stay Connected