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Site location choices are often made utilizing Census data which can be out of date, or not offering a hint of what is in the works.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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