San Diego Serves Up a Data-Driven Culture

Transparency, prioritization and a cultural shift are required for other cities to follow suit
July 3, 2018
San Diego’s sand, surf and sun may seem like a good start to attracting workers and companies, but having a smart city infrastructure focused on community needs is the real driver. Shutterstock
By Lisa Wong  |  Senior Fellow, Governing Institute
Lisa Wong is a senior fellow with the Governing Institute and former mayor of Fitchburg, Mass.
Data-Driven

San Diego’s efforts to become a leading technology hub is paying dividends. Despite one of the city’s tech giants, Qualcomm, announcing layoffs in June 2018, the city still has a strong tech community. Spinoffs and startups, and a diversity of tech companies, have contributed to a robust and resilient economy. The city’s annual Startup Week attracts thousands of entrepreneurs and investors, making it one of the largest events of its kind in the country.

Being named a top performer in data-driven performance in the second-annual Equipt to Innovate survey from Governing and Living Cities is further proof of the city’s hard work in this area. San Diego’s sand, surf and sun may seem like a good start to attracting workers and companies, but having a smart city infrastructure focused on community needs is the real driver.

San Diego’s open data portal features everything from municipal budgets to project status. The site even has information about the tech behind the data, and those that are interested can find out about how the portal was formed and how it has evolved.

High-performing cities in the data-driven category of the Equipt survey have a few key indicators in common. First, data is transparent. There is plentiful information on the municipal website, and data is communicated and connected to policies, mandates and activities. Second, data is prioritized. Many cities have a department or designated staff to focus on data. Third, data drives culture. Whether it be investing in digital literacy or using data to create equity, cities use data to transform and improve lives.

San Diego has several initiatives along these lines. The city has made major investments in its libraries to serve as hubs of learning and set up a strong wireless infrastructure to ensure disadvantaged neighborhoods have access.

In addition, San Diego’s chief data officer, Maksim Pecherskiy, has been leading the way in developing new tools to create efficiency and accountability across departments and reduce costs. It’s no surprise that the city’s 311 system is known as “Get It Done.”

For more inspiration on how to get it done in your city, take a look at what the other data-driven top performers in the survey are doing: Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Louisville, Philadelphia and Seattle.