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Planning the Data-Driven City

How do cities effectively collect, publish, and use data? A review of cities’ strategies for open data, analytics, and infrastructure identifies best practices for achieving data-smart goals’”and highlights the importance of planning ahead.

Laura Adler, a PhD student at Harvard’s Data-Smart City Solutions, profiles the digital strategies of three US cities (San Francisco, New York City, and Chicago), highlighting strengths, weaknesses, and innovations. While the plans vary substantially, they fall into two distinct types: plans that focus on the city’ s open data program and plans that address data as part of a comprehensive technology strategy.

A data-smart city must engage in planning processes to identify, collect, integrate, and analyze its data resources. Whether planning for city data occurs in the context of open data or as part of broad technology strategies, cities must begin to look ahead and plan for the data needs of the future.

The table below summarizes basic features of the plans discussed above. According to Laura Adler, a greater number of initiatives does not mean a better plan: sometimes the best plans are narrower, focusing on one issue and engaging deeply with the attending complexities.