Data, Performance And Predictive Analytics Are Converging: Stephen Goldsmith

November 5, 2014 5:48 am PST | Data as a Service

“We are at a moment where we can transform how we run a city,” claims Director of the Innovations Program at Harvard Kennedy School, Stephen Goldsmith. “But we haven’t yet fully connected open data, predictive analytics, and statistics to change how government works.”

Connecting these elements to transform how governments govern and engage with their citizenry is the topic of Goldsmith’s new book, “The Responsive City.” Although open data and data visualization has somewhat improved government’s effectiveness and efficiency, the movement still has much further to go, Goldsmith says.

Goldsmith told told attendees at the Socrata Customer Summit 2014, “As we think about [the open data] movement, we have to come back to our definition of public value and how data drives that, as well.

Public value is not how many potholes are filled or traffic lights we repair,” he went on, “It’s about how we manage mobility in our communities.”

At crux of Goldsmith’s argument is government’s two-fold need to become less reactive. Government must better use open data and predictive analytics to become internally proactive, and simultaneously, leverage open data and transparency to more actively connect with the public.

Transforming Government From Within

When it comes to being internally proactive, Goldsmith says the issue is with the structure of the government.

“The problem is ‘us,’” assets the former Indianapolis mayor and deputy mayor of New York City, “We [in government] make it impossible for our employees to work effectively because they are trapped in hierarchies or vertical agencies. But the open data movement is an opportunity to move past that, letting people see across multiple agencies at once.”

Strong leadership at the top of government is mandatory in order to move toward a more open, data-driven approach, Goldsmith says. He also advises leaders keep close at hand “a good lawyer who is problem-solving and can work through any privacy protocols for what data must be anonymized.”

Better Connections To Citizens

“Data analytics has transformative abilities,” Goldsmith avows, “But it brings an unexpected risk — that government experts will come to believe they hold all the answers, and in turn, will ignore people in the communities they serve.”

In order to avoid this rabbit hole, government needs to gather third party input into its data. By socializing government information, community engagement will grow. Combining “open data with information in the public” is where the real opportunities for cities to create value lie, says Goldsmith.

There is a real fear in government that open data and apps just offer the public another place to complain. “But people already know how to complain,” says Goldsmith. “Government needs to see the open data movement as an opportunity to create solutions.”

Besides, Goldsmith goes on, it’s not about open data or technology, per se. “Our cities’ greatest complication is communication. The power of the open data movement is most useful when it’s connecting people to their government. Tech tools are great, but alone, they will not change government.”

Government should be driving the conversation about how to transform our cities, in Goldsmith’s opinion, and that discussion only happens when government is being responsive and responsible.

“We need response-driven trust and civic pride, new sense of public employment, repurposed money, and evidence-based value to bridge to a new governance for our cities,” Goldsmith concludes. “Marrying open data, predictive analytics, and stat-driven government is that next way.”


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