Accelerating Economic Opportunity With Open Urban Data
Who will you meet?
Cities are innovating, companies are pivoting, and start-ups are growing. Like you, every urban practitioner has a remarkable story of insight and challenge from the past year.
Meet these peers and discuss the future of cities in the new Meeting of the Minds Executive Cohort Program. Replace boring virtual summits with facilitated, online, small-group discussions where you can make real connections with extraordinary, like-minded people.
Opening up economic opportunities to those who’ve been left out could be accelerated by the emergence of open urban data platforms. This is my own hope, and it’s one that I share with many others. Enabling access to public sector information presents us with a chance to expand transparency, and perhaps even to widen public participation and engagement across various levels in our cities. However, the direction this takes us is, largely, still to be discovered.
Connected urban information systems are already having some impacts: lowering costs, improving government performance, enhancing the social utility of service-provisioning. Some important steps are now being taken by leading-edge cities to link up information generated by urban services, infrastructure, public transport, and other utilities.
There are some real and difficult challenges facing cities as they move towards greater degrees of open data. Here are some of the questions which I’m asking, and to which I’m hoping to find (or create) answers:
- How best to engage government officials, private sector organizations, international development agencies, academics and non-government organizations? Is it time for collaborative process — rooted in critical thinking — about how best to design and develop 21st century data-driven sustainable cities?
- How can urban data be sourced beyond public institutions? What policy decisions are required, and what mechanisms exist to enable heterogeneous data flows?
- What platforms are emerging which can enable better decision-making by both government executives and non-government leaders?
- Where can lower-income cities get involved, and is this a luxury for established institutional frameworks only to grapple with? Is this a luxury item?
- The drive toward open data is emerging within both small and large urban communities. Are they seeing the concrete benefits which have been promised?
- What are the key obstacles to success? What practical next steps would allow users of open data?
Early indicators tell us that connected urban information systems are yielding some real benefits. Technically, it’s now possible to join up information that flows from a wide variety of on urban systems. And we can now allow each of these systems to talk to each other in order to improve efficiency and optimize performance.
Now that we have these amazing technical capabilities, what concrete steps are needed to achieve our objectives for a greater opening on economic opportunity? What steps would cities need to take to make those tools more widely available to citizens at all levels of the socio-economic spectrum? What programs are shown to be most cost-effective for lower-income urban residents? What makes sense at each of the different stages of economic development?
These questions need to be explored from different angles by leading thinkers on urban systems, by city executives, by international institutions like the World Bank, by tech companies. Furthermore, these questions could and should be explored from multiple perspectives — and that’s exactly the plan during Meeting of the Minds 2014 when it convenes in Detroit from Sept 30-October 2 of this year.
Leave your comment below, or reply to others.
Please note that this comment section is for thoughtful, on-topic discussions. Admin approval is required for all comments. Your comment may be edited if it contains grammatical errors. Low effort, self-promotional, or impolite comments will be deleted.
Read more from MeetingoftheMinds.org
Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
People seem frequently to assume that the terms “sustainability” and “resilience” are synonyms, an impression reinforced by the frequent use of the term “climate resilience”, which seems to enmesh both concepts firmly. In fact, while they frequently overlap, and indeed with good policy and planning reinforce one another, they are not the same. This article picks them apart to understand where one ends and the other begins, and where the “sweet spot” lies in achieving mutual reinforcement to the benefit of disaster risk reduction (DRR).
As extreme weather conditions become the new normal—from floods in Baton Rouge and Venice to wildfires in California, we need to clean and save stormwater for future use while protecting communities from flooding and exposure to contaminated water. Changing how we manage stormwater has the potential to preserve access to water for future generations; prevent unnecessary illnesses, injuries, and damage to communities; and increase investments in green, climate-resilient infrastructure, with a focus on communities where these kinds of investments are most needed.
A few years ago, I worked with some ARISE-US members to carry out a survey of small businesses in post-Katrina New Orleans of disaster risk reduction (DRR) awareness. One theme stood out to me more than any other. The businesses that had lived through Katrina and survived well understood the need to be prepared and to have continuity plans. Those that were new since Katrina all tended to have the view that, to paraphrase, “well, government (city, state, federal…) will take care of things”.
While the experience after Katrina, of all disasters, should be enough to show anyone in the US that there are limits on what government can do, it does raise the question, of what could and should public and private sectors expect of one another?