Mayors: Data & Technology Critical to City Leadership

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The use of data to drive decision-making in cities is continuing to grow, and the myriad uses for these data are being further incorporated into city operations.

(Getty Images)
In their 2016 State of the City addresses, multiple mayors committed to leading smarter cities where classrooms, neighborhoods, and businesses leverage data and technology to become better connected and more productive. (Getty Images)

Data and technology are critical components of highly functioning cities. Mayors recognize this, and seek to elevate related issues – from broadband to smart cities to data-driven government and more – in order to better serve community members and create successful cities.

Cities are also using data and technology to make themselves smarter and more effective. In our State of the Cities 2016 analysis, one in five mayors devoted significant coverage to these issues in their annual addresses.

High Speed Internet

Internet and broadband are top mayoral priorities, coming in as the highest-rated area, with 22 percent of speeches touching on broadband. One of the key messages surfacing is that equity is incredibly important and cities are working to alleviate existing challenges surrounding access.

Mayors across the country noted the importance of fast, reliable internet to community success. However, access varies city to city or even between neighborhoods. In Baltimore, where 30 percent of homes lack internet connection, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called broadband “the great infrastructure challenge of the 21st century.”

This disconnect can put poor students at risk of falling further behind in school. It can also discourage the growth of a local technology business.

“Imagine a new commitment to building a Smart City with high-speed gigabit fiber and focused neighborhood Wi-Fi that not only gives our students access to a 21st Century education, closing the homework gap, but creates an environment for a new explosion in small business investment and high-tech, knowledge economy industry,” said Columbia, South Carolina, Mayor John Tecklenburg.

Smart cities

Multiple cities — from Nashville to Kansas City, Missouri — committed to becoming smarter cities where classrooms, neighborhoods, and businesses leverage data and technology to become better connected and more productive.

In Escondido, California, Mayor Sam Abed said, “I see a future inspired by 21st century innovation to make Escondido a smart city. I see tremendous opportunities and a better future for the city that we all love and care about.”

This year, Columbus, Ohio, became the first city to win the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge. Columbus will receive $40 million, in addition to $100 million from private partners, to reshape its transportation system. “Smart Columbus will deliver an unprecedented multimodal transportation system that will not only benefit the people of central Ohio, but potentially all mid-sized cities,” said Mayor Andrew Ginther in a statement.

Data-driven government

“Data helps us make decisions. It’s a tool to help us make choices. And the more we know, the better decisions we can make,” said Mayor Andy Hafen of Henderson, Nevada.

Data is particularly useful for community wide public safety efforts. The Jersey City, New Jersey Open Data Portal is an example of a platform that allows the city to proactively provide the public with unfiltered and unbiased information on crime and other police activities. “We are trying to break down the informational barriers between government and residents in order to encourage honest dialogue aimed at increased public safety,” said Mayor Steven Fulop. These types of tools empower cities to share data with the public and track goals over time.

In Dallas, which suffered the deadliest incident for U.S. law enforcement since 9/11 this year, the city is leading on data-driven policing. “In 2015, our department’s excessive force complaints were reduced by 67 percent,” said DPD Police Chief David Brown at a press conference just a few weeks before the fatal police shooting. “And our deadly force incidents have been reduced by 45 percent. So far, this year in 2016, we’ve had four excessive force complaints. We averaged between 150 and 200 my whole 33-year career. So this is transformative.”

The use of data to drive decision-making in cities is continuing to grow, and the myriad uses for these data are being further incorporated into city operations. Furthermore, data-driven government is part and parcel of developing smart cities ready for the future.

Whether data helps city leaders make better decisions on policing, traffic management, or internal processes, the goal is to develop better services for community members. Mayors know that the broad swath of areas in cities that technology enhances grow with each passing year. In order to successfully shape this future for all of us, we can look to cities for true leadership.

This post is part of a series expanding on NLC’s 2016 State of the Cities report. Check back next week as we delve deeper into what mayors had to say about energy and environment.

About the authors:

Brooks Rainwater is the Director of the Center for City Solutions and Applied Research at the National League of Cities. Follow Brooks on Twitter @BrooksRainwater.

 

Trevor Langan is the Research Associate for City Solutions and Applied Research at the National League of Cities.