How do we make Dayton smarter?

This isn’t a post about education. It’s about access to the data infrastructure.

My friend David E. Bowman tweeted about the “Long tail of City’s” where access to data was discussed. That took me over to the IBM smarter cities site where they have this synopsis:

A city is not some abstract organizational entity, but rather the most massive social organization we create (well, at least until the Web came along). So what does a Smarter City mean to the legendary “man on the street”? How does an intelligence environment benefit him or her? How does he or she interact with this intelligence?

Information Technologies can do two main things: enable the flow of information and aggregate information. Information flows in Smarter Cities are both horizontal (P2P) and vertical (P2C). How does the co-existence of these sets of flows change the way that cities operate?

For example, how does this complement traditional democracy? Can it enable “micro-governance” in which quarters, districts, even streets have more direct control over “how the city works”?

via Smarter Cities.

When I talk about empowering neighborhoods, access to data – and the maintenance of data at the local level is a key issue. Who better to report the status of the vacant house than the next door neighbor? What about the street light that’s out, or the pothole? However this reporting structure still is requiring a call to City Hall, a recording to their data system and then follow up- without our ability to track the status.

Think of opening the data to the public in the same way that FedEx gives you a package tracking number, you’ll feel confident about the status of your issue, because you can track it. Compare that to the current layers of bureaucracy with the Priority Board system. Start to make sense?

Other issues arise as well. Today I wanted to see if I could find a notary public in the neighborhood. Google couldn’t help me. However, if our neighborhood had a fully empowered online community- it would have been much easier.

In discussing demolition plans- how can we enable private investors to identify opportunities, if they have to depend on driving by, searching real estate and tax records, and then pulling it all together- when we should have this information available in near-real time?

Site location choices are often made utilizing Census data which can be out of date, or not offering a hint of what is in the works. The Census can’t tell you about a new development that’s in the works, or efforts of developers in transforming housing stock like what has been happening in South Park thanks to our two angel developers- but a real time online community could.

When it comes to sharing resources- utilizing ideas like zip car, bcycle or Phizzpop and Usemore, data is the key. If we want to work collectively, data access is the key. If we want to see people empowered- data is the key.

I don’t have all the answers on what is possible, but, through the open sharing of data, new ideas can percolate to the top. I find Jeffery Dwellen’s historical dives into the geographies of wealth, employment and development in Dayton to be amazing springboards for a discussion of what to do next. It’s too bad he’s shut down Daytonolgy, but there is still a trove of his input on UrbanOhio.com – like this thread on what he called “Lower South Park/Older South Park” which has now been tagged “Midpark.”

We have some strong resources locally in GIS (Geographic Information Systems) with Woolpert being a prime vendor of these systems as well as research being done on the base and at UD. With wars being won on the basis of better real time data, I would venture that Dayton could be more competitive by experimenting with a neighborhood based information system.

With CiviCRM as a foundational framework, we may only be limited by our ability to define the questions we believe we need answered. When it comes to how to strengthen and preserve our neighborhoods, good data about our existing conditions is key.

Your thoughts?

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7 Responses

  1. David Harewood October 9, 2009 / 9:37 pm
    YOu can’t make Dayton smarter.  You can hope tha thte City COuncil gives up on forty-year-old ways of maneuvering politically, but you can’t make the population smarter.
    Once better data is compiled– and it is in larger metro areas– that can be a great way to empower the public.  There’s another key issue that you don’t address, though:  access.  This is an area increasingly finding itself out of step with the vanguards in information in general primarily, I have thought, because of how poor it is.  The library’s budget woes meant hat the people’s access to those resources are going to be even more severely impaired.  Also you have to consider that all the information in the world won’t do any good if we have an official unemployment area rate of 13.5%, which means that hte real unemployment rate is probably somewhere around 18%.  As long as the mass populi isn’t working they won’t be able to afford even the possibility of a mortgage to fill up these empty homes.

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  2. truddick October 10, 2009 / 10:45 am
    I disagree.  It certainly is possible to make a population smarter.
    The USA did it beginning in the latter 19th century via public education.  There is a reason why the USA swept all Nobel Prizes this year (except for literature, we took or shared all of them)–and why the USA has won Nobels in science and technology at rates far ahead of the rest of the world.
    At the same time, standards for journalism improved during the 20th century–leading to a temporary improvement in the accuracy and impartiality of reporting.  Alas, the advent of media outlets like Fox and Sinclair and the dumbing down of the older media sources have reversed that trend.  At least MSNBC is being honest and calling itself “politics” instead of “news”.
    If you want an intelligent community, you want to fund education generously (and use the money to increase professionalism among teachers and resources for the classroom, NOT to require more administrators and paperwork), and you will try to support the most accurate and impartial news sources you can find (which in this market, AFAIK, is BBC World, NPR, and NBC–and that’s far from ideal, since it includes no print resource).
    Increasing access to information is a very good idea, but it alone will not improve our community IQ.  What good is it to get information if you lack the intellectual background to analyze it?

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  3. David Esrati October 10, 2009 / 10:51 am

    “What good is it to get information if you lack the intellectual background to analyze it?”

    That’s what we have you for Mr. Ruddick.

    And I wasn’t talking about IQ- I was talking about interoperability smarts and data analysis by leaders.

    Right now, even if we had good leaders, the metrics haven’t been designed- nor has the measurement tool.

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  4. Rob Degenhart October 11, 2009 / 9:50 am
    Great article in the New York Times this morning on ‘Smarter Cities’ describing just what Esrati does in this post.  For crying out loud if  Dubuque, Iowa can get traction on using data for improving efficiencies certainally Dayton Ohio can to….Keep up with this topic David!  With TeraData here in town we should lean on them for some storage space and business intelligence software.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/11/business/11unboxed.html
     

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  5. David Esrati October 11, 2009 / 11:16 am

    @Rob- thanks for pointing out the Times article. I would have loved to be Dayton’s rep at that conference- and would have paid my own way as a commissioner.

    We have resources here locally to make this happen. What we don’t have is infotech literate leaders.

    Hopefully, come Nov. 3 the citizens will see that there is one candidate ahead of the curve on this stuff.

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  6. Teri Lussier October 15, 2009 / 8:19 pm
    Brilliant. One of your most inspired posts ever, David.
     
    >we may only be limited by our ability to define the questions we believe we need answered.
     
    That’s exactly how you make the population smarter. Education and intelligence are somewhat contagious. We learn and grow from each other- hive behavior- and the internet is the perfect vehicle to share our smarts with each other.
     
    >I don’t have all the answers on what is possible, but, through the open sharing of data, new ideas can percolate to the top.
    And that’s the beauty of this way of thinking- one person doesn’t have to have all the answers. One political party doesn’t have to, and the schools don’t have to, because information wants to be free. This doesn’t have to be complicated or owned. Jefferey does amazing work out of love for this city, you as well. Bill Pote is another. Many of us are working hard to contribute whatever we can to our collective intelligence! Welcome to the future.

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