Leveraging and Sharing Data for Urban Flourishing

Testimony by Stefaan Verhulst before New York City Council Committee on Technology and the Commission on Public Information and Communication (COPIC): “We live in challenging times. From climate change to economic inequality, the difficulties confronting New York City, its citizens, and decision-makers are unprecedented in their variety, and also in their complexity and urgency. Our standard policy toolkit increasingly seems stale and ineffective. Existing governance institutions and mechanisms seem outdated and distrusted by large sections of the population.

To tackle today’s problems we need not only new solutions but also new methods for arriving at solutions. Data can play a central role in this task. Access to and the use of data in a trusted and responsible manner is central to meeting the challenges we face and enabling public innovation.

This hearing, called by the Technology Committee and the Commission on Public Information and Communication, is therefore timely and very important. It is my firm belief that rapid progress on developing an effective data sharing framework is among the most important steps our New York City leaders can take to tackle the myriad of 21st challenges....

I am joined today by some of my distinguished NYU colleagues, Prof. Julia Lane and Prof. Julia Stoyanovich, who have worked extensively on the technical and privacy challenges associated with data sharing. I will, therefore, avoid duplicating our testimonies and won’t focus on issues of privacy, trust and how to establish a responsible data sharing infrastructure, while these are central considerations for the type of data-driven approaches I will discuss. I am, of course, happy to elaborate on these topics during the question and answer session.

Instead, I want to focus on four core issues associated with data collaboration. I phrase these issues as answers to four questions. For each of these questions, I also provide a set of recommended actions that this Committee could consider undertaking or studying.

The four core questions are:

  • First, why should NYC care about data and data sharing?
  • Second, if you build a data-sharing framework, will they come?
  • Third, how can we best engage the private sector when it comes to sharing and using their data?
  • And fourth, is technology is the main (or best) answer?…(More)”.