For America’s New Mayors, a Chance to Lead with Data


Article by Zachary Markovits and Molly Daniell:”While the presidential race drew much of the nation’s attention this year, voters also chose leaders in 346 mayoral elections, as well as many more city and county commission and council races, reshaping the character of government leadership from coast to coast.

These newly elected and re-elected leaders will enter office facing an unprecedented set of challenges: a worsening pandemic, weakened local economies, budget shortfalls and a reckoning over how government policies have contributed to racial injustice. To help their communities “build back better”—in the words of the new President-elect—these leaders will need not just more federal support, but also a strategy that is data-driven in order to protect their residents and ensure that resources are invested where they are needed most.

For America’s new mayors, it’s a chance to show the public what effective leadership looks like after a chaotic federal response to Covid-19—and no response can be fully effective without putting data at the center of how leaders make decisions.

Throughout 2020, we’ve been documenting the key steps that local leaders can take to advance a culture of data-informed decision-making. Here are five lessons that can help guide these new leaders as they seek to meet this moment of national crisis:

1. Articulate a vision

The voice of the chief executive is galvanizing and unlike any other in city hall. That’s why the vision for data-driven government must be articulated from the top. From the moment they are sworn in, mayors have the opportunity to lean forward and use their authority to communicate to the whole administration, council members and city employees about the shift to using data to drive policymaking.

Consider Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti who, upon coming into office, spearheaded an internal review process culminating in this memo to all general managers stressing the need for a culture of both continuous learning and performance. In this memo, he creates urgency, articulates precisely what will change and how it will affect the success of the organization as well as build a data-driven culture….(More)”.

Smart urban governance: an alternative to technocratic “smartness”


Paper by Huaxiong Jiang, Stan Geertman & Patrick Witte: “This paper argues for a specific urban planning perspective on smart governance that we call “smart urban governance,” which represents a move away from the technocratic way of governing cities often found in smart cities. A framework on smart urban governance is proposed on the basis of three intertwined key components, namely spatial, institutional, and technological components. To test the applicability of the framework, we conducted an international questionnaire survey on smart city projects. We then identified and discursively analyzed two smart city projects—Smart Nation Singapore and Helsinki Smart City—to illustrate how this framework works in practice. The questionnaire survey revealed that smart urban governance varies remarkably: As urban issues differ in different contexts, the governance modes and relevant ICT functionalities applied also differ considerably. Moreover, the case analysis indicates that a focus on substantive urban challenges helps to define appropriate modes of governance and develop dedicated technologies that can contribute to solving specific smart city challenges. The analyses of both cases highlight the importance of context (cultural, political, economic, etc.) in analyzing interactions between the components. In this, smart urban governance promotes a sociotechnical way of governing cities in the “smart” era by starting with the urban issue at stake, promoting demand-driven governance modes, and shaping technological intelligence more socially, given the specific context….(More)”.

Responsible Data Re-Use for COVID19


” The Governance Lab (The GovLab) at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, with support from the Henry Luce Foundation, today released guidance to inform decision-making in the responsible re-use of data — re-purposing data for a use other than that for which it was originally intended — to address COVID-19. The findings, recommendations, and a new Responsible Data Re-Use framework stem from The Data Assembly initiative in New York City. An effort to solicit diverse, actionable public input on data re-use for crisis response in the United States, the Data Assembly brought together New York City-based stakeholders from government, the private sector, civic rights and advocacy organizations, and the general public to deliberate on innovative, though potentially risky, uses of data to inform crisis response in New York City. The findings and guidance from the initiative will inform policymaking and practice regarding data re-use in New York City, as well as free data literacy training offerings.

The Data Assembly’s Responsible Data Re-Use Framework provides clarity on a major element of the ongoing crisis. Though leaders throughout the world have relied on data to reduce uncertainty and make better decisions, expectations around the use and sharing of siloed data assets has remained unclear. This summer, along with the New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library, The GovLab co-hosted four months of remote deliberations with New York-based civil rights organizations, key data holders, and policymakers. Today’s release is a product of these discussions, to show how New Yorkers and their leaders think about the opportunities and risks involved in the data-driven response to COVID-19….(More)”

See: The Data Assembly Synthesis Report by y Andrew Young, Stefaan G. Verhulst, Nadiya Safonova, and Andrew J. Zahuranec

Transparency in Local Governments: Patterns and Practices of Twenty-first Century


Paper by Redeemer Dornudo Yao Krah and Gerard Mertens: “The study is a systematic literature review that assembles scientific knowledge in local government transparency in the twenty-first Century. The study finds a remarkable growth in research on local government transparency in the first nineteen years, particularly in Europe and North America. Social, economic, political, and institutional factors are found to account for this trend. In vogue among local governments is the use of information technology to enhance transparency. The pressure to become transparent largely comes from the passage of Freedom of Information Laws and open data initiatives of governments….(More)”.

Open data in public libraries: Gauging activities and supporting ambitions


Paper by Kaitlin Fender Throgmorton, Bree Norlander and Carole L. Palmer: “As the open data movement grows, public libraries must assess if and how to invest resources in this new service area. This paper reports on a recent survey on open data in public libraries across Washington state, conducted by the Open Data Literacy project (ODL) in collaboration with the Washington State Library. Results document interests and activity in open data across small, medium, and large libraries in relation to traditional library services and priorities. Libraries are particularly active in open data through reference services and are beginning to release their own library data to the public. While capacity and resource challenges hinder progress for some, many libraries, large and small, are making progress on new initiatives, including strategic collaborations with local government agencies. Overall, the level and range of activity suggest that Washington state public libraries of all sizes recognize the value of open data for their communities, with a groundswell of libraries moving beyond ambition to action as they develop new services through evolution and innovation….(More)”.

Third Wave of Open Data


Paper (and site) by Stefaan G. Verhulst, Andrew Young, Andrew J. Zahuranec, Susan Ariel Aaronson, Ania Calderon, and Matt Gee on “How To Accelerate the Re-Use of Data for Public Interest Purposes While Ensuring Data Rights and Community Flourishing”: “The paper begins with a description of earlier waves of open data. Emerging from freedom of information laws adopted over the last half century, the First Wave of Open Data brought about newfound transparency, albeit one only available on request to an audience largely composed of journalists, lawyers, and activists. 

The Second Wave of Open Data, seeking to go beyond access to public records and inspired by the open source movement, called upon national governments to make their data open by default. Yet, this approach too had its limitations, leaving many data silos at the subnational level and in the private sector untouched..

The Third Wave of Open Data seeks to build on earlier successes and take into account lessons learned to help open data realize its transformative potential. Incorporating insights from various data experts, the paper describes the emergence of a Third Wave driven by the following goals:

  1. Publishing with Purpose by matching the supply of data with the demand for it, providing assets that match public interests;
  2. Fostering Partnerships and Data Collaboration by forging relationships with  community-based organizations, NGOs, small businesses, local governments, and others who understand how data can be translated into meaningful real-world action;
  3. Advancing Open Data at the Subnational Level by providing resources to cities, municipalities, states, and provinces to address the lack of subnational information in many regions.
  4. Prioritizing Data Responsibility and Data Rights by understanding the risks of using (and not using) data to promote and preserve the public’s general welfare.

Riding the Wave

Achieving these goals will not be an easy task and will require investments and interventions across the data ecosystem. The paper highlights eight actions that decision and policy makers can take to foster more equitable, impactful benefits… (More) (PDF) “

Automating Society Report 2020


Bertelsmann Stiftung: “When launching the first edition of this report, we decided to  call  it  “Automating  Society”,  as ADM systems  in  Europe  were  mostly  new, experimental,  and  unmapped  –  and,  above all, the exception rather than the norm.

This situation has changed rapidly. As clearly shown by over 100 use cases of automated decision-making systems in 16 European countries, which have been compiled by a research network for the 2020 edition of the Automating Society report by Bertelsmann Stiftung and AlgorithmWatch. The report shows: Even though algorithmic systems are increasingly being used by public administration and private companies, there is still a lack of transparency, oversight and competence.

The stubborn opacity surrounding the ever-increasing use of ADM systems has made it all the more urgent that we continue to increase our efforts. Therefore, we have added four countries (Estonia, Greece, Portugal, and Switzerland) to the 12 we already analyzed in the previous edition of this report, bringing the total to 16 countries. While far from exhaustive, this allows us to provide a broader picture of the ADM scenario in Europe. Considering the impact these systems may have on everyday life, and how profoundly they challenge our intuitions – if not our norms and rules – about the relationship between democratic governance and automation, we believe this is an essential endeavor….(More)”.

Airbnb’s Data ‘Portal’ Promises a Better Relationship With Cities


Article by Patrick Sisson: “When startups go public, a big part of the process is opening up their books and being more transparent about their business model. With global short-term rental giant Airbnb moving towards its own IPO, the company has introduced a new product that seeks to address recent safety concerns and answer the data-sharing requests that critics have long claimed make the company a less-than-perfect partner for local leaders. 

The Airbnb City Portal, which launched on Wednesday as a pilot program with 15 global cities and tourism agencies, aims to provide municipal staff with more efficient access to data about listings, including whether or not they’re complying with local laws. Each city, including Buffalo, San Francisco and Seattle, will have access to a new data dashboard as well as a dedicated staffer at Airbnb. Like so many of its sharing economy and Silicon Valley peers, Airbnb has had a contentious, and evolving, relationship with municipalities and local government ever since launching (an especially fraught situation in Europe, as an EU court just ruled in favor of city regulations of the site). 

At a time when so many tech platforms are wrestling, often unsuccessfully, with the need to moderate the behavior of bad actors who use the site, Airbnb’s City Portal is an attempt to “productize” how the home-sharing site works with local government, says Chris Lehane, Airbnb’s senior vice president for global policy and communications. It’s a more useful framework to access information and report violations, he says. And it delivers on the platform’s long-term goals around sharing data, paying taxes and working with cities on regulation. He frames the move as part of a balancing act around the security and safety responsibilities of local governments and a private global company.

The dashboard will also be useful for local tourism officials: It will provide visitor information, including city of origin and demographic information, that helps bureaus better target their advertising and marketing campaigns….(More)”

Announcing the New Data4COVID19 Repository


Blog by Andrew Zahuranec: “It’s been a long year. Back in March, The GovLab released a Call for Action to build the data infrastructure and ecosystem we need to tackle pandemics and other dynamic societal and environmental threats. As part of that work, we launched a Data4COVID19 repository to monitor progress and curate projects that reused data to address the pandemic. At the time, it was hard to say how long it would remain relevant. We did not know how long the pandemic would last nor how many organizations would publish dashboards, visualizations, mobile apps, user tools, and other resources directed at the crisis’s worst consequences.

Seven months later, the COVID-19 pandemic is still with us. Over one million people around the world are dead and many countries face ever-worsening social and economic costs. Though the frequency with which data reuse projects are announced has slowed since the crisis’s early days, they have not stopped. For months, The GovLab has posted dozens of additions to an increasingly unwieldy GoogleDoc.

Today, we are making a change. Given the pandemic’s continued urgency and relevance into 2021 and beyond, The GovLab is pleased to release the new Data4COVID19 Living Repository. The upgraded platform allows people to more easily find and understand projects related to the COVID-19 pandemic and data reuse.

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The Data4COVID19 Repository

On the platform, visitors will notice a few improvements that distinguish the repository from its earlier iteration. In addition to a main page with short descriptions of each example, we’ve added improved search and filtering functionality. Visitors can sort through any of the projects by:

  • Scope: the size of the target community;
  • Region: the geographic area in which the project takes place;
  • Topic: the aspect of the crisis the project seeks to address; and
  • Pandemic Phase: the stage of pandemic response the project aims to address….(More)”.

Exploring Urban Form Through Openstreetmap Data: A Visual Introduction


Chapter by Geoff Boeing in Book edited by Justin B. Hollander and Ann Sussman: “This chapter introduces OpenStreetMap—a crowd-sourced, worldwide mapping project and geospatial data repository—to illustrate its usefulness in quickly and easily analyzing and visualizing planning and design outcomes in the built environment. It demonstrates the OSMnx toolkit for automatically downloading, modeling, analyzing, and visualizing spatial big data from OpenStreetMap. We explore patterns and configurations in street networks and buildings around the world computationally through visualization methods—including figure-ground diagrams and polar histograms—that help compress urban complexity into comprehensible artifacts that reflect the human experience of the built environment. Ubiquitous urban data and computation can open up new urban form analyses from both quantitative and qualitative perspectives….(More)”.