Better, Faster, Cheaper

How Government's Data Can Be Truly Useable

In honor of the recent Open Data Day, here's what might seem a counterintuitive suggestion: Let's stop celebrating open data.

Why? A little history: It was back in early 2010 when a groundbreaking open data ordinance was introduced in the New York City Council. It became law two years later and provided a presumption that information previously hoarded by government agencies belonged not to them but to the public. In subsequent years, organizations like the Sunlight Foundation advocated for open data, and an enormous change began to occur across the country. Open data policies are now common at every level of government. We've moved beyond the need to celebrate it as special. Rather, we should regard it as a minimum and core requirement of government. READ MORE

A Way to Unlock the Value of an Airport

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay recently asked the Federal Aviation Administration to consider allowing his city to enter into a public-private partnership to lease its airport to a qualified airport manager backed by private infrastructure funds -- a model that exists in much of the rest of the world but not so much in the United States. The mayor's plan has the potential to unlock value now trapped in the airport to address broader city needs, and it could serve as an example of how local governments can produce resources without adverse budget or ratepayer impact at a time when the country is starved for infrastructure investment.

Local officials who have pledged to keep an open mind on the proposal have nevertheless raised issues that will need to be addressed. The issues are familiar ones to me. As mayor of Indianapolis in the 1990s, I did the country's first major full outsourcing of an airport. At the time our airport, as is true of St. Louis' Lambert International, was successful and well managed. I wanted to market-test whether a private company that specializes in airport management, with access to worldwide technology and best practices, could produce more customer satisfaction, better airline relationships and more net revenue while holding down increases in passenger enplanement costs. READ MORE

Certifying Data-Driven Government

A mayor, whether working in a big city or a small one, sees needs every day that would benefit from the investment of public resources. With such opportunities essentially unlimited but resources quite constrained, how should a leader respond?

A comprehensive answer to this question was recently presented when Bloomberg Philanthropies' What Works Cities initiative lanched a certification program that provides much-needed clarity by identifying and endorsing clear, expert-tested indicators of the capacity to use data effectively. READ MORE

A Shared Space for Operational Excellence

Most state and local officials, perhaps contrary to the usual portrayal of government, constantly push to find better ways to accomplish the public's work at lower costs. In doing so, they often look to consulting groups to produce reports that expertly evaluate performance and recommend strategies for operational advancements. Over the last six months, a team of experts at the Harvard Kennedy School has been collecting and analyzing these reports so that a high-quality review from one jurisdiction can be helpful in another.

While each jurisdiction harbors its own localized nuances, governments face the same trials in modernizing. Many challenges -- such as successfully merging departments, providing effective technology structures and maintaining proper staffing levels -- are universal across governments. A consultant's recommendations to the state of Iowa about emergency service dispatch consolidation might, for instance, convey principles that can be applied to the same service in California. READ MORE

Kick-Starting Data-Driven Government

As the civic data field matures, more cities are discovering the value of data to improve government and asking how they can more fully join the movement. The path a public-sector leader should take to move from analog government to analytics-driven decision-making requires following sound advice and proven examples. Purchasing or building a data solution is only worth the investment when accompanied by the right planning, staffing and support to ensure that the tools not only solve an immediate civic problem but will generate long-term improvement.

One source of advice is provided by What Works Cities (WWC), a Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative to help mid-sized cities leverage the power of data and evidence to improve outcomes such as increased public safety and a healthier fiscal bottom line. By working with 100 mid-sized cities in varying stages of their data journeys, the Johns Hopkins' Center for Government Excellence (GovEx), one of the WWC partners, is helping them build capacity for more advanced analytics. And for a small group of qualifying cities, GovEx is piloting an Analytics Kick Start service to identify those that are ready to complete an advanced project and sustain an advanced analytics program. READ MORE