Open Cities Summit (I). Keynote: Amen Ra Mashariki, Chief Analytics Officer, New York City

Notes from the Open Cities Summit, part of the International Open Data Conference 2016, and held in Madrid, Spain, on 5 October 2016. More notes on this event: opencitiessummit and iodc16.

Keynote: Amen Ra Mashariki, Chief Analytics Officer, New York City

After several milestones on open data and open governmetn, in 2015 New York City released its Open Data For All programme. Its aim, to actually increase the use and reuse of open data by all citizens, not just a bunch of them. Open data has to be available for all, meaning that data should be able to be used by anyone, anywhere and anytime.

Start with users

NYC made some research on who the users were and how did they use data.

Human-centered design was applied to improve the portal, and think on the portal not as a repository, but as a service.

In partnership with New York University, the portal made that you —as an individual, as a community— you could find yourself in the data, you have to feel that you are represented there. If a policy is implemented and you are not there, the policy will not affect you. So, main issues/problems/needs were identified and the date was put into motion to illustrate or lay the foundations of these issues and the policies to address them.

For instance, an Open Data Powerty model was designed using data on community concerns, infrastructures, representation, demographics, etc.

Encourage purposeful engagement

e.g. Organise hackathons and other ways of constructive engagement that has a meaning not for the city, but for the individual citizen too.

Empower agencies

Agencies have many missions and goals, and opening data usually is not one of them. Thus, they will not dedicate a part of the budget to it, no matter how insistent you are on that. So, how do we bring agencies to open up data? And make it meaningful to them?

First thing is to address standards. Try and have agencies applying standards in their data management, so that they can be reused elsewhere, or that they can “talk” to other data sets. This will sooner or later create synergies and help agencies not to open data but to achieve their own goals, which is what they really care about.

Treat publishing as the middle of opening data

When you get data from an agency, most of it does not make sense to you, out of the agency’s context. So you partner with them and try to understand their data so that you can bring them to light. For the agency, publishing data is the end; for you, publishing data is just the middle, as there is a lot of work to be done still.

Integrate Open Data into citywide processes

Case: The NYPD Was Systematically Ticketing Legally Parked Cars for Millions of Dollars a Year — Open Data Just Put an End to It. If citizens can have access to open data, they can help improve the city in many ways. So, it is not only about “data journalism” and publishing news, etc. but also about engaging in citizen processes.

You have to work to change the complexion of the community. You have to work to empower people to believe that they can make a change, that they can participate, that they can help to improve the city.

Learn, test, standardize — and learn again

Reflect about the whole process and improve it.


4th International Data Conference (2016)

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2016) “Open Cities Summit (I). Keynote: Amen Ra Mashariki, Chief Analytics Officer, New York City” In ICTlogy, #157, October 2016. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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