The Office of Innovation had the pleasure of participating in the first Upstate Data Summit on June 6th at Syracuse University. The event, sponsored by Syracuse’s iSchool, the City of Syracuse, and the Center for Technology in Government, brought together more than 70 attendees from state and local government, non-profits, software companies, and management consulting firms to discuss how government can use data and technology in innovative ways to engage and inform citizens, save money, and provide a better customer experience to residents and visitors.
I gave the first presentation of the day, outlining the data strategy for the City and how we plan to overcome the challenges of decentralized data management in the coming fiscal year by developing a comprehensive City data strategy. The strategy will address issues outlined by the University of Chicago’s data and tech readiness scorecard.
By developing a comprehensive City data strategy that addresses issues such as security and classification, storage and ETL strategies, public release (i.e., an open data policy), and analytical capacity, we hope to understand where each department currently sits along the data maturity framework and create individual and citywide plans to increase the quality of data collection, storage, extraction, analysis, and communication citywide. The ultimate mission is to harness the information we already collect to better understand our customers’ needs and use our limited budget as efficiently as possible. We strive to more fully engage and inform citizens by increasing our transparency and sharing spatial and statistical analyses about the Rochester community.
Following my presentation was Kirk Mclean, Buffalo’s Director of Open Data, with his own presentation on Buffalo’s Civic Innovation Challenge hackathon, which took place between March 1st and April 22nd this year. The event tasked upstate web developers with using data from Buffalo’s Open Data Portal, combined with other public data sets, to create a useful solution to alleviate problems for Buffalo residents. The winning app, Good Neighbor, acts as a “civic directory,” helping new residents, specifically new Americans, find and use City, County, and State services and resources, such as their nearest police station, firehouse, and polling location. Buffalo can use this technology to make its community more welcoming to and inclusive of those who are far too often left out or left behind.
Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh provided the keynote speech in which he described the vision of how his administration has and will continue to use data to drive decision-making focused on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of government services while staying focused on providing the best possible customer service to citizens. Other presentations included a session by Syracuse Chief Data Officer Sam Edelstein who outlined Syracuse’s partnership with Data for Social Good to predict breaks in their water mains, as well as a presentation by Megan Sutherland of the Center for Technology in Government and John Coluccio from the City of Schenectady on their collaboration on the creation of regional database capturing information about vacant properties, other issues of blight, and an overall better tracking of property ownership around the Albany region.
The Upstate Data Summit is a valuable resource for all upstate cities to learn and share the ways we can better deliver our services to our citizens. The closing panel discussion highlighted the shared challenges all participating jurisdictions face but the common drive to use data to better understand our communities. Thanks to all the organizers and facilitators who made this event possible.