Alexander Howard, The Huffington Post’s senior editor of technology and society, sat down with Amen Ra Mashariki, New York City’s Chief Analytics Officer and leader the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics (MODA), to discuss the role of data, open data, and analytics in New York City’s efforts to better the city. The interview, which occurred during the 3rd International Open Data Conference, addresses topics pertinent to open data and cities–from the digital divide, to privacy, and data governance.
Here are some highlights:
Mashariki is first asked: “what should the public know about the uses and impacts of releasing open data?”. His response highlights two main points:
First, he explains that releasing open data should drive transparency. He clarifies, however, that open data in and of itself does not necessarily mean transparency; instead, it allows for engagement that can foster transparency and mobilize discussion. He exemplifies this through a description of the work being done by various civic tech groups in New York City that are taking open data and visualizing various government activities that are shared with the public.
Second, he describes how open data is a learning opportunity. For example, in obtaining and opening data, it can provide neighbourhoods that know little about themselves with the ability to identify areas in need of improvement, and in turn, make suggestions to their representatives on city council. In this, open data can help communities develop or enhance knowledge of their neighbourhoods, and utilize this information to address quality of life issues.
Mashariki is also asked about how the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics works. He explains that an agency or department in the city will reach out to them and present a particular problem or challenge they are facing. MODA will then seek to address the issue through data and analytics.
For example, Mashariki explains that the city’s procurement processes are a concern, as they can be very lengthy. To enhance efficiency, MODA tracked multiple procurement processes to try and find the bottlenecks. In identifying the areas that were taking particularly long, MODA took what Mashariki calls the “scalpel approach”: improving or cutting out segments of the process that were unnecessarily time consuming. Here, instead of taking the “sledgehammer approach”, and trying to change the entire process (which is unrealistic), Mashariki and his team use data and analytics to increase efficiency in the procurement process by focusing on specific stages of procurement.
Overall, Howard allows Mashariki to explain and explore the ways in which MODA is improving New York City by obtaining quality, robust, and clean data that can be used to drive better decisions in the city while protecting privacy and ensuring proper data governance.
Check out the interview below to learn more about data, open data, and analytics in the Big Apple.