5 Ways Cities Can Use Data to Become More Efficient and Effective

“Data and technology” was identified as one of the top 10 issues mayors were prioritizing in their 2018 state of the city speeches. It’s easy to see why: data can help cities become more efficient and better able to deliver services and solve problems.

Cities large and small are leveraging data and facts to solve challenges and make better decisions. To help cities successfully incorporate data into their governance, the National League of Cities (NLC) teamed up with Results for America to share best practices and resources that will ultimately help cities use data to provide better services for residents.

Training and resources are available through NLC University, which is hosting a webinar on October 24 on What Works Cities Certification. Certification is a national standard of excellence for data-driven, well-managed local government, and you can learn more about the program by signing up for the webinar here.

Cities can get started on their data journey today with these five strategies:

  1. Commit publicly to data.
    Transparency is important to constituents. So in order to make sure they are on the same page, it’s important to share with them a public commitment to data. This way, you can ensure that important conversations take place from the beginning and constituents feel that they can hold their leaders accountable.
  1. Set citywide priorities that are driven by data.
    Having access to big data and analytical tools doesn’t just mean that cities can improve processes. It also means that cities can create new ones. For instance, North Port, Florida, is using big data to compare city employee health benefits with other government agencies. The benchmarking data will be used to determine if benefits need to be updated — something the local government wouldn’t have been able to do a few years ago (at least not easily).
  1. Designate the right leaders to foster a data-driven culture and drive priorities.
    Implementing big data technology on a city-wide scale requires specialized knowledge and time. That’s why, as Government Technology has noted, there has been a rise in a brand new government position: chief innovation officer. While this position often includes CIO functions, the main role of a chief innovation officer is right in their title: to foster innovation and ensure that big data and analytics remain a core focus of local governments.
  1. Before applying new solutions, identify what doesn’t work.
    In Greenwood, Indiana, the local government realized that phone lines would be inundated by concerned commuters seeking information after every snowstorm. To fix this, they decided to track and post online, in real time, which roads had been plowed and which were about to be plowed. This made services more efficient for residents.
    With the advent of technology, we can now solve more problems than we ever thought possible — and even make systems that already work, better. All it takes is some know-how, a little creativity and an ear to the ground.
  1. Build on what’s already working.
    As they say, you shouldn’t fix what’s not broken. On that note, if something works, you should build on it. For instance, cities are increasingly seeing how important broadband infrastructure is for everything from expanding industry to improving education. In response, many city leaders are looking into not only expanding broadband access — which would build equity — but also integrating smart city technology into existing infrastructure. These kinds of updates could have lasting effects on efficiency, resilience and data collection. 

NLC and Results for America will provide trainings on Certification at the 2018 City Summit in Los Angeles (November 7-10) and in March at NLC’s Congressional City Conference.