10 tips for city-level big data initiatives

10 tips for city-level big data initiatives

As cities adopt big data strategies, better collaboration, transparency and policies can help their initiatives succeed, according to a new report from IBM’s Center for the Business of Government.

“Ten Actions to Implement Big Data Initiatives: A Study of 65 Cities” explores how big data -- whether that be data sharing, open data or analytics -- is used for decision making and how city leaders can enhance the effectiveness of big data initiatives that provide public services more efficiently and responsively.

Three main factors affect big data adoption, the report finds: leadership attention, adequate staff capacity and the pursuit of partners. Successful big data initiatives require support from top leadership like city managers and mayors, investments in new hires and  staff training to keep up with emerging technology and partnerships with city departments, universities, businesses and the local community.

The study found that many cities are using big data to track website traffic and how citizens use online services. They are leveraging social media tools, connected sensors and mobile devices to engage the public and understand the community. Data is also being used for decision-making through analytics programs and data sharing via open data platforms. Many also provide performance dashboards and open data portals so citizens can analyze and explore the data on their own.

Because policy priorities, organizational capacity, leadership support and community expectations vary, there is no one-size-fits-all approach for successful city big data strategies. The report does, however, provide 10 policies and managerial practices that have been proven effective by cities already embracing big data development.

  1. Think about a “smart city system,” not just data: Consider how big data contributes to smart city development and how data generated through connected technologies can be integrated and analyzed.
  2. Commit to data-based policymaking by establishing a vision and articulating plans for integrating big data into enterprisewide strategies.
  3. Institutionalize policies associated with open data, analytics and data privacy through legislation or executive orders.
  4. Encourage a culture that embraces bottom-up innovation and change.
  5. Involve the public in data governance.
  6. Build a multidepartmental team to develop big data strategies, which will improve data integration and analysis.
  7. Build capacity and expertise with staff training and system development so service departments can share their programming expertise and statistical knowledge.
  8. Designate regular networking representatives who work with stakeholders to gain insights and leverage limited resources.
  9. Develop a multiyear strategic data plan that includes open data portal rules, new data collection assignments and future hardware and software purchasing requirements.
  10. Communicate the insights gathered from big data initiatives with citizens: Real-life stories of policy implications will make open data and data analytics more relevant.   

Read the full report here.

About the Author

Amanda Ziadeh is a former reporter/producer for GCN.


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