Upstate Data Summit Recap

On June 6th, the first Upstate Data Summit was held on the campus of Syracuse University. Over 70 attendees came from across Upstate New York to hear how cities like Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Schenectady are using data to improve operations and make service delivery more efficient and more equitable.

The event featured speakers from Upstate cities and a keynote presentation from Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh. The event concluded with a panel discussion that included city representatives from the City of Binghamton and the NYS Department of State’s Division of Local Government Services.

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh Speaks at the Upstate Data Summit

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh Speaks at the Upstate Data Summit

A complete write up of the event can be found on the Syracuse University website and photos from the event can be found on Flickr.

The presentations from city leaders can be downloaded at the following links:

Preparations for a follow up event next year are already underway. Stay tuned!

Syracuse Launches an Open Data Portal

The City of Syracuse took another step in it’s open data evolution recently by launching an open data portal, joining the City of Albany in the small but growing fraternity of Upstate cities with open data portal.

The new open data portal represents months of work by the city’s Chief Data Officer and municipal innovation team. There are a number of very useful and valuable data sets available on the site, particularly the newly released parcel data file with details on all 40,000+ properties in the city.

The launch of this site underscores Syracuse’s commitment to transparency and engagement, but it also shows that open data is not just for big cities. The City of Buffalo is also slated to launch an open data portal soon. Here’s hoping not only that we see more cities adopting open data, but that Upstate cities begin sharing new ideas and strategies for putting this data to work.

Driving Innovation Beyond The Big City

In late 2014, I had a chance to present on the main stage at the annual Code for America Summit in San Francisco. To the surprise of very few people, I was there to talk about cities and data.

Earlier that year, I had finished up my term as the first Chief Data Officer for the City of Philadelphia, one of the largest cities in the country. But my focus that day was not on big cities like Philadelphia — but rather on smaller cities that had not yet started down the road of leveraging data to spur innovation and inform better policy decisions.

In 2014, the delta between what large cities were doing with data and what small and mid-sized cities were doing was pretty stark.

Large cities had embraced open data almost universally and had put in place the policy or technology infrastructure necessary to implement open data or data analytics programs. Nineteen of the top 25 most populous cities had an open data portal or a data policy in place at the time. More than 70% of cities with populations over 500,000 had started down the road to leveraging data to make better decisions or change the way they interacted with residents.

In contrast, relatively few smaller cities had begun that work. Of the 256 incorporated places in the U.S. with populations between 100,000 and 500,000 (based on U.S. Census data), only 39 had adopted a data policy or had implemented an open data portal at that time.

But in the time since I gave that talk, much has changed — largely through the work being done as part of the What Works Cities initiative, which was launched by Bloomberg Philanthropies in 2015 to work with mid-sized cities between 100,000 and 1 million in population, and is now partnering with over 75 cities across the country.

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