Cities Address Hurdles to Sharing Data

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An increasing number of operating systems are available to municipalities looking to streamline data sharing, but a global network wants them thinking about urban resilience as they do.

New York City continued to develop its master data platform last week, when it hosted 100 Resilient Cities’ first-ever CoLab.

The three-day Data CoLab brought together municipal government representatives from the city, San Francisco; Manchester in the United Kingdom; and Cape Town, South Africa, as well as subject matter experts and the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth.

In 2012, New York City passed its Open Data Law requiring the city to make all public data available on a single web portal, and the Department of IT and Telecommunications, or DoITT’s, Citywide Data Center does just that.

City officials see developing a master data platform as the next step in facilitating interagency communication by unifying city platforms under one operating system. But first New York City officials wanted to work through community relations, leadership, funding and data governance problems that have arisen, while keeping in mind urban resilience issues like climate change.

“The CoLab is designed to really push the participants to not just jump to solutions,” Andrew Salkin, senior vice president of global resilience practice at 100RC, told Route Fifty. “It’s not one agency that can solve these problems.”

Already, 100RC’s members have published 49 urban resilience strategies—about 20 percent of them tied to enhancing citywide data management systems.

Day one of the CoLab revolved around cities’ representatives exploring how their departments shared data and how differing priorities affected dataset availability. On subsequent days, participants discussed possible solutions and the increasing number of operating systems coming to market to meet their needs.

The four participating cities are expected to report back in 30 days with how they implemented CoLab solutions, so other 100RC members may replicate their work.

“The solutions that came out—they’re proposals,” said 100RC spokeswoman Nicole Bohrer-Kaplan. “So it’s up to the cities whether they use them or not.”

In New York City’s case, DoITT officials recognized that as a service agency responding to the challenges of other agencies, they need to engage those stakeholders more frequently.

The city is about to update its resilience strategy, OneNYC, and it falls on DoITT to lay out what data exists and the role that data can play in climate mitigation among other shocks and stresses.

“The city has these legacy systems, that are many times past their useful life cycle, providing critical services,” Salkin said. “What level do you upgrade them to?”