How cities are searching for solutions among massive mounds of data

Description: In mid-2011, New York found itself gripped by a series of horrible tragedies: Five people, including several children, had died in blazes that broke out in overcrowded, decrepit apartments that were literally disasters waiting to happen.


Date: February 5, 2015


Mr. Flowers, now a visiting scholar at New York University’s Center for Urban Science and Progress, is at the forefront of what he rightly describes as a “revolution” in the way local governments deliver services.

By making smarter use of their vast storehouses of operational information – everything from traffic counts and readings gathered by air-quality sensors to date stamps on business-licence applications – municipalities may be able to prevent deaths, boost quality of life, improve their operations, and reduce costs. In such sprawling city-regions as Greater Toronto, planners are trying to go a step further by using extensive transportation surveys, granular census data and sophisticated computer forecasts to model demand for multibillion-dollar transit lines.     Read the rest of the Story

Questions for discussion:

1.  What type of problems or opportunities do you see municipal governments being able to improve or resolve as a result of using data they already have?

2.  Should municipal govt. allow outside organizations access to this data or keep it in-house?


85 thoughts on “How cities are searching for solutions among massive mounds of data

  1. Senura Suduweli

    Some of the areas that I believe that they can improve on with big data are transportation, criminal activity, and quality of life. With data available to the city, the biggest problem that they can overcome is organization. They will be able to better plan for new developing cities. They can reduce criminal activity by using the shared database with all regions. This will overtime increase the quality of life for citizens across Canada. They will be able to budget better for the city and use the budget on what matters the most. They can overcome emergency operation times. With this they can respond to a emergency situation quicker and resolve easier. The cities can use the data for emergency vehicles to use the shortest route available and have on board computing to resolve matters on the way to the situation. In my opinion there will be no harm or any problems faced with the data that they posses. They can only make the cities better and over time this will boost our economy.

    Municipal governments should share the information that they have with organizations. They are placed there to help the economy, with the data available the organizations it can help them to grow, which will lead to economic growth. The sensitive data that is held by the government should have permission before accessing data. This way we can protect the citizens from knowing very sensitive data. Organization can use this valuable data in their favor to grow their business.

  2. Anish Singh

    In the highly advanced world of Big Data municipal governments are able to use the advantage of it to resolve and improve on a variety of problems including providing better health care, better living conditions by managing crimes or speculating life of buildings or controlling pollution level to a long list of things like controlling bureaucracy, minimizing corruption and improving efficiency of emergency services. This kind of revolution has changed the way cities operated as they now have access to an intense amount of information which can help them predict behaviors and speculate the outcome which provides and opportunity to control. For example, with historical data, a city can manage traffic better by reducing wait time at traffic signals and implementing other strategies like diverting traffic to avoid congestion.
    With cities becoming smart, we now have decreased crime rate as historical data helps identify and isolate the causes of the crime and helps police act faster and better. Cities have also been able to achieve operational efficiency by cutting down not necessary patrols as crime occurrence could now be predicted and the officers would know which area to focus on. With better access to information, emergency services can act better too. For example, with information available about fire hydrants which are not operational, a fire fighting team can build a better strategy and increase results and save substantial damage.
    Municipal Organizations should never allow access to this data to any third party as it can create a huge risk. For example, if any sensitive information is leaked out to terrorist organizations, it can adversely effect the functioning of a city by creating a life threat for it’s citizens.

  3. Brady T

    The biggest problem I for see municipal governments overcoming is the response time for emergency vehicles. By being able to look at, combine and analyze data about the nature of emergency calls, their locations and the time spent driving to the scene, governments can use the results to not only recommend the fastest routes for emergency vehicles to take, but can have emergency personal on high alert, or even already in high risk areas, at times that historically they have needed to respond to emergencies. The information can also be used to help staffing schedules for emergency personal, with historically quiet times and areas having less staff while higher risk times and areas can have more people available to respond. The information can even be used by the governments when they are planning on building a new emergency personal facility (Fire Hall, Police Station, etc) to help to place the new stations in areas that allow for the quickest possible response times to the high risk areas.
    I think municipal governments should allow outside organizations free access to most of the data, with the more sensitive data needing companies to get permission before having access, as the ease of access can allow anyone to look the information which opens up the possibility of an individual seeing a new business opportunity for which they can open a profitable business. It would also allow for the possibility of someone else seeing a problem or recognizing a pattern that the government has overlooked that could be used to make their community safer or to reduce the cost of something, which could mean the government could reallocate the money to another area of need.

  4. Tommy J

    There are many applicable uses that are derived from gathering city-wide data. One that comes to mind that would help response times for emergency services if they gathered data on the most congested streets and then offered a faster, more reliable route. In any case, the more knowledge of a city could bring about benefits for municipalities to better regulate the city. In the article it discussed how New York heavily benefited in locating and predicting which buildings were dangerous to the cohabitants. This kind of data could also greatly benefit in crime prevention by giving the police force a better foresight into which areas of town are more heavily engaged in crime. Additionally, this would also give potential new home owners a better understanding about where they plan to buy their next house.
    The municipal government should always gauge how much information gets released into the public. Some of the data they released could be sensitive information and may cause an uproar within the general public. More often than not the information that the municipal government provides helps the citizens get a better understanding of the city. However, data in its raw form could be hard to interpret to the inexperienced which to most people it could be regarded are superfluous and useless information provided by the municipalities.

  5. Xuan Wen

    In this article, it tells how cities are searching for solution among massive mounds of data. There is an example which is Mike Flowers, a former district attorney who then led Mr. Bloomberg’s newly former office of Data Analytics, well know, the challenge would come down to resources: The city employed to inspectors who had to triage 20000 complaints about illegally converted apartments each year. It is a sea charge in thinking that could rival the shift to professional municipal management that market the dawn of the progressive Eva over a century ago. According to MR. Bloomberg’s former deputy mayor:” whenever we are talking about data, we are talking about modernizing how government works.” As Mr. Goldsmith notes, the growing fascination with the potential application for all sorts of data should not obscure the reality that long-serving front-line workers still possess a valuable street-level understanding of the way cities work that is not available in this generation. The way of avoiding useless data is one of the most mission today. Mr. Flowers did lots of test into to fugue out how this going to work. I think that the municipal government should allow outsider organization access to this information rather than keep itself.

  6. Shiqi Wang

    It is important to control big data for each city. There are huge differences for people search information by using different methods. It would benefit a city to allow certain organizations that are trustworthy and certifiable to take some of the payload off the government and assist with the allocation of information resources within a large city. Having the data ahead of time will allow preventing bottlenecks in paper work in allowing the building permits to become accessible. Traffic light wait times can be changed according to time of day and flow volume. The signals from cell phones can be used to track movement throughout the city. Over the years the traffic has noticeably increased but it is not yet a problem. Information systems and data can help manage this issue by examining the biggest sources/factors of traffic and finding solutions to counteract them. As Mr. Goldsmith stated “Whenever we’re talking about data, we’re talking about modernizing how government works.” This quote speaks truth; with this use of big data the government could more closely monitor individuals and events negatively or positively. Getting into the bigger picture is a small local government does use the existing data it can be very beneficial.

  7. Riley Smith

    They can use their data they already have to operate at a better efficiency. If data is recorded at a certain stop light during rush hour, it can help the city determine how long they should make the stop light operate. They can also use previous data to measure how much water and energy the area will need based on previous records and growth. Outsiders should be allowed access to this data as long as privacy isn’t violated. Smaller municipal towns may not be able to afford advancements in technology and allowing other sources to come and look at that in order to predict future decisions, as long as privacy rights aren’t violated. Outside sources that specialize in data could really make the storage of data for these cities easier and more efficient

  8. Jacob Rutgers

    Seems like another win for big data, information systems, statistics, and analytics. Being from Vancouver, I know there is currently a referendum on whether or not to expand the government-subsidized transit system aka Translink. The city obviously wants to go through with it but the plan would include raising taxes on everyone, even those who don’t use it. They have used a taxation by referendum method as their argument is able to use the vast amounts of information they have collected, projected population increases, projected increase of transit congestion due to population increases, and even little yet important things, like how many people actually pay for transit tickets. Otherwise it would just be seen as the government raising taxes no matter what statistics they told the public (thoughts of the failed HST implementation come to mind). But as the article illustrates there are many uses for information in an attempt to essentially create a “smart city”.
    I think there are both pros and cons to allowing organizations access to municipal government information. Some opportunities could spring out of it for example having the private sector exploit a problem yet offer a service to the people of the city and find its own way to cost that, rather than always having to raise taxes to solve problems the public faces (bureaucracy can get real bad real fast). In terms of cons of this expedition however, there may be some privacy issues, as in how far back do you push the line back.

  9. Hailly

    I think municipal governments can resolve issues and improve actions by forming teams that are highly trained to work with the data. If the municipal government does not want to take on these roles of solving issues with the data that they have, form teams that specifically have the job of utilizing that data to better society. If they is not something the government wants to take on themselves, my suggestion would be to have a screening process of applicants to access the data and use it accordingly.
    The obvious problem with releasing the data would b people inappropriately using it. A solution and recommendation of mine would be to have a intermediate that accepts a request for the release of information that the municipal governments already have. If an organization is going to use the data for a greater good, then if they propose a strategic plan on how they are going to utilize it and maybe a time frame, why not let them have it. They are only going to be improving society as a whole and safety of others, in the cases of apartments that could literally be called a fire trap. If a small team was to look at applications and sort them into order of relevancy, and hold them to a privacy standard, I think it would be fine to let other organizations have access to the data.


    Many solutions that cities may be able to solve using the Data they already have is traffic congestion along main roads. From living in Calgary, I get accustomed to watching the news and seeing congestion along main roads such as Deerfoot trail and Glenmore due to either traffic or a possible collision. Big cities around the Country combat this problem by adding lanes or constructing ring roads in order to divert commuters home using a quicker route. Another thing many cities can improve is bus routes based on the demographics they have gathered around the city. Some of the things a city may be looking for when planning a route is the salary of the people living in the community as well as the age of the residents.

    I believe that in the government should totally restrict outside organizations from obtaining this data. This is due to the fact that in most cases with many big companies with effective marketing programs, many people can get sucked in to certain propositions or services based on government information such as possible demographic information based on a neighbourhood. This, however, can be good because based on government information about the city and its well-being, certain companies can come in and provide services that are needed based on personal needs of the people within the city. In my opinion though, I believe that the government should keep all data in house in order to prevent against the manipulation of the data to trick or control people within the city or certain demographic areas.

  11. Ashley

    There will always be controversy over information sharing no matter what situation it is pertained to but I think if the Municipal government used the information they already have they would be able to make the city safer.They would be able to make plans and systems to be used throughout the city to relieve some of the stress of certain areas and make the most dangerous parts of the city safer. With this being said they need to come up with a security system that allows the information to be used but still secure for privacy. Some of the information will be to specific to be let into the wrong hands. Having all this information and not using it is a waste especially if it will make a significant difference in the city.

  12. Jaime Zachery

    I feel that with the use of data there will be more opportunities for governments to advance and improve the quality of life in certain areas. The data that was collected has been there for quite some time, and it is a waste of data to not use it for analyzing issues and implementing solutions. As stated in the article, data collected could eventually be used to create somewhat of a “smart city” idea, where transit, waste, and other issues can be monitored and controlled. Another benefit is the ability to record high crime areas which could help in allocating police force for certain times in the day to certain areas. Depending on the nature of the data and how personal the information provided in the data is, I think outside organizations should be allowed access.

  13. Ann Shea

    Because the municipal government has access to this data they are able to recognize common traits or characteristics that are able pinpoint potential opportunities or problems. Some of the reoccurring characteristics that occurred in potentially bad buildings were landlords allowing their buildings to fall behind on maintenance issues or not paying their mortgages tended to be more commonly allowing safety features maintenance to fall behind as well. By using the data the municipal government is able to formulate plans that will help prevent the reoccurrence of fires in less cared for properties therefore increasing the safety of tenant’s homes and reducing some of the risks that the firefighters have to take.
    I believe that the municipal government should allow outside organizations access to this information rather than keep it in-house. One of the main highlights of being able to obtain and organize this data is that analysts have the skills and experience that they can apply it to a map therefore outlining potentially problem areas that would be affected by higher crime rates. With this information there will be an increase in public safety. The information is not used to expose areas with higher crime rates but can also help an area’s economy when recognizing if permit applications for restaurants are being filed in a respectful time frame and not following under the responsibility of an area that may take longer because of ineffective office worker.

  14. Guillaume

    There is a difference between the data you collect and try to interpret and the actual data that will help you find good solutions to the problem you are having. The communities collect data for road condition, traffic jams, weather, speed in order to rely on this data to find how to get the best traffic control possible. This data can also help fight small crimes. But all this data should be held by the government so there will be no misuse of it and no one uses it to his own personal advantage. Companies have already access to enough data, by letting them open to even more data we it could become harmful. It could also cause legal and ethical issues if allowing outside access to it. There is more than only data to make a good business decision. The city should not rely on the data only to take the decision, it might be the fastest option but it might not be the best one.
    If the city would collect all the data by themselves instead of hiring outside organisations it would help keep the trust of the citizens and also have better response from data since they gathered it all by themselves.

  15. Mike Forsyth

    I think that municipal governments should allow outside organizations to access theyre data in house because now a days there is so much information that cities have to deal with. from economic to social, environmental even ethical. it would benefit a city to allow certain organizations that are trustworthy and certifiable to take some of the payload off the government and assist with the allocation of information resources within a large city. for instance, an organization could deal with all criminal activity information reported in the city and post to a local new website or have that information transferred to new broadcasting stations for immediate updates for citizens. like in the example of the 5 people tragically killed in the apartment fires. what if there was an information service in an organization specifically designed to search out hazardous communities and have them refurbished or safety inspected before bad things can happen. because with one government trying to keep track of thousands of pieces of information things like that tragic accident become lost in the mix of other important issues.

  16. Ayesha S

    “Those documents ended up being extremely valuable in their predictive value for bad things that happen on a property,” observes Mr. Flowers. With the benefit of hindsight, the reason seems obvious. Landlords who let their properties fall apart, cram in illegal tenants and stop making mortgage payments are almost certainly ignoring safety-code violations. “The city,” he says, “didn’t know that it knew that.””. This I definitely have got to see eye to eye with a landlord. I would not want someone who would be an illegal client as well as do illegal things in my house. I would want a thorough checked client and someone who is valid for being a tenant without causing disruptions. If the municipal governments can use the information provided and available to them wisely, they could get to the root of the problem before it turns in to a crisis. I would, as a landlord want information available to me stating my client(s) are valid citizens and will not cause any harm while being in my house etc. Data can be used to solve many problems. These are the kind of problems that we can solve by keeping proper files AND having them available to any people connected to them to make sure no further harm can be done and is prevented to the best of their ability.

  17. Dawn V

    Municipal governments need to exercise their resources more than they do. I think most cities have more resources that they use and this results in decrepit buildings that fall apart and start fires injuring and killing innocent people. Most cities don’t allocate money to the right resources. This hurts the public. Also with data, I think most cities have adequate amount of data that is not being utilized properly. The only problems with specific data being used like personal data would be identity theft and criminal activity using a person’s information. Governments could also use data to its benefit cost wise, spending money and not reporting it, committing fraud or tax fraud. Opportunities could be with any aspect of the city, from safety, to transportation to accommodation, to advancing the city and developing more jobs. The city could use the information they already have and expand upon it and build a more thriving city attracting more immigrants and gaining more population that would help the city expand and grow. I think it would be a good idea to have the municipal government have outside help from outside organizations in situations like these with the condemned buildings if they need more resources. A city should always ask for help when need be. At the same time it can hurt the privacy of the city of some criminal activity were to take place like fraud.

  18. Skylar Edmonds

    Personally I think that every cite needs to be able to control and process tons of big data. If the cite were able to take advantage of the big data, it would be able to provide citizens a more convenient society. Big data is the source of intelligence and it will be able to cover all aspects of the city of wisdom. From governments decision making, to everyday decisions made by college students, and the lay out and planning of developing a city, to the cities operation and management mode, all will be taken advantage of from and by big data. Big data can provide strong decision support for urban construction, and also in the planning of a city through the urban geography, meteorology and other natural information and economy.

    When the municipal government keeps the data in house it will improve productivity more because the government can and will use its internal stakeholders to determine the best ways to improve our cities. If there are too many organizations or people have a hold of the data and suggests different solutions we may never see improvements simply because we wouldn’t know where to start. If we keep the data internally and handle one issues at a time I think that it will prove to be more effective in advancing our cities. Also to use data to gain an economic profit for organizations can prove to be a very unethical practice in todays social image. Considering that this could be a very steep and slippery slope it is almost a must that there needs to be some sort of security or preventative watch in place to make sure that everything is being put to proper use, but if we have the information and know how to analyze it, it would be a failure on the individuals part if there was not a system that was implemented if would be just because of a lack of effort.

  19. Chelsea

    If municipal governments can properly use the information that they have available to them I think that they can resolve a lot of problems in cities. First it is important to properly understand the data they have and then implement ideas to help solve problems that many urban centers experience. Data could be used to solve transportation problems. Such as if traffic is moving freely in most places and if accidents occur in a particular area. By recording this data they can observe what needs to be changes to help protect and help citizens. It could also be used to see who and how many people use public transportation and at what times. This could cut down costs of city transit because they could operate more effectively and efficiently. It could also be used to cut down on crimes in a specific area. Not only could police monitor areas where more crime has been known to occur it could also educate citizens. Citizens could be able to access information on when and where most crimes occur to be more alert. Protecting citizens is a huge concern and this data could be used to help create a safer city.
    Governments should share this information with outside organizations but only to a certain degree. This data should first be used by the local governments to improve their city. After that only certain information should be made public to organizations of course because the first priority should be the protection of citizens. However I believe sharing specific information would only guarantee more solutions to existing problems.

  20. Chelsey Brown

    The top priority of any public institution and as a basic life is the issue of safety. This articles highlights the ability for this type of data mining to promote safer living environments in a manageable way and to not use city collected data in a way that promotes safety and to help curb localized issues is a gross misuse of resources. This data can obviously address current issues but I believe it would also have the potential forecast potential issue in a given area. If you compare attributes of high crime areas to other areas there may characteristic within them that make them susceptible to crime and preventative measures can be taken.
    I don’t believe that outside sources are the best solution for collecting and analyzing this data. Municipalities go through huge election processes to enable the community to select candidates that best represent their community and who know the community well. Although the data and resources that an outside company could provide would be of great benefit in the large picture this data is applicable to very small areas; therefore in able to be used in the most effective manner someone from this area would have the greatest knowledge and experience to best make these decisions. The downside to this argument would be that in many smaller areas (ie Lethbridge vs. New York) the available resources are not the equivalent and thus the ability that an outside organization has to compare this data to large applications should be a benefits- at which point I believe the decision is a matter of opportunity cost.

  21. Mohammad Ashraf

    The municipal government can certainly benefit from the data that they possess and use it to their advantage. The data may allow the municipal government to create reports and analyze areas that need attention and can make the city a better place to live in. This data would allow the municipal government to see patterns, react in a timely manner, and be prepared well ahead of time. This example goes back to the use of Business Intelligence in law enforcement. Crime reports were and various data were entered into the information system of Richmond’s law enforcement in the state of Virginia. The Business Intelligence report analyzed that workers in certain areas are more likely to get robbed on payday. With the discovery of this fact, management was able to make better use of Richmond’s police officers and reduce the number of robbery taking place on payday, when there is a greater chance that a crime will be committed against workers.

    Allowing a third party to access the valuable data the municipal government consists, depends on the risks involved. There are number of possibilities that can arise from releasing sacred data to a third party. The outside organization may use personal data to their own advantage and try to benefit their own organization, while the data may have been released to the organization for different purposes. However, releasing that information to other organizations may come as a great benefit to the city as a whole. Outside organization may be able to discover areas that need attention, which may play a big role in the development of the city and resources available to residents.

  22. Arty K

    Information sharing is a tricky topic. You can never know just how much information to share and to what use it is going to go. Governments however have an opportunity to improve the everyday functioning of the city. Public transit, traffic can be greatly improved, and so can the safety of people in urban areas. Information sharing may not help solve all the problems, but it can help identify the risk of that problem happening before it does, to prevent it from happening.It can help identify the most dangerous areas and make sure the people feel safe about their surrounding environment and their rights arent violated.
    Sharing of information with the outside organizations can be risky. I don’t think sharing personal information is necessary but sharing general information should be encouraged. It would give outside companies a better chance to understand the environment and make changes to bring better services and goods to people. If sharing of information to outside organizations helps improve the services provided, or at least their relevance, i think it should be done.

  23. Kristin Kobbert

    Like the article stated, municipal governments have data that if utilized properly would be able to resolve many problems that cities face. Infrastructure that is falling apart, high crime rates and delayed licensing are all problems that could all be identified using data analysis from the information that these governments already have. The push is for these municipalities to modernize their operations to prevent deaths and raise the quality of life for their citizens. The data would help the city officials understand where the problems are occurring, and why the problems are occurring. In the case of Edmonton crime, the analysis allowed them to make the connection that lack of picnic tables and green space in neighborhoods led to higher crime rates. The data analysis helped the officials identify the problem and with continued use the stand a good chance at being able to prevent these problems before they occur.

    As to whether the government should allow outside organizations access to the data or keep it in-house, I think it all comes down to opportunity costs. If an outside organization has greater expertise to analyze the data and is more efficient at creating useful outputs, then perhaps they should be allowed access. There are a lot of potential uses for the data and if the government is not prepared to process it, then someone else should have the opportunity to help. I think it still needs to be mandated that frontline service workers and all those involved in the day-to-day city activities be consulted throughout solution development to the problems that are identified.

  24. James Bradshaw

    Municipal governments have many operations that can be improved using data that they already have and also data they can gather. This article shows that “Landlords who let their properties fall apart, cram in illegal tenants and stop making mortgage payments are almost certainly ignoring safety-code violations.” Basically if someone has done something wrong in the past, they are probably currently doing something wrong or will be doing something wrong in the future. The information gathered from past violations undoubtedly has merit in making future decisions on who to investigate further. With limited resources and money inspectors in big cities like New York this key information is critical when making correct decisions. “Whenever we’re talking about data, we’re talking about modernizing how government works,” says Mr. Goldsmith, of Harvard University. So the use of analytical tools to sort through data they already have is something that is clearly evident in the successful future of a government municipality. By not using this information at all or incorrectly they are essentially short changing themselves on what results they are trying to get.
    The problem with sharing this information with outside organizations is the freedom of that information. By allowing outside organizations to access this date or keep it in house individuals run the risk of having personal information getting into the hands of malicious people or organizations. With identity theft a huge concern in society any way to limit the release of sensitive information is better for people in these cities. Government municipalities have a responsibility to their citizens by not allowing this information to be released. This balance between protecting personal privacy rights while using data to correctly predict future events is something that has to be looked at when analyzing sensitive information.

  25. Jordan M

    I see municipal governments being able to use the data that they have already collected and being able to produce a clearer picture to what the issues are in the city and what opportunities are present but have not been explored. By doing this they will be able to pinpoint where the attention of the city council should be focused in order to improve the city and or give new opportunities to the citizens. This will improve the lives of the citizens within the city. There are many different areas that the data can focus on and it will depend on the size and the opinion of those involved to what will get priority. If the council wants to include citizens in the process, it could be put to a vote to which the citizens will feel like they had more of a say in the issues. I don’t believe that municipal governments should allow outside organizations to access this data as this would then expose certain elements that should be kept private. If it is in bigger cities they could be more prone to terrorist attacks or safety threats if the information was exposed. I believe the information should be kept until it is no longer necessary, you should have some of that private information sitting around for someone to take advantage of it. Worse case scenario, you always recollect the date, which might more beneficial for the city as it is constantly growing and changing and it may present new issues that need attention.

  26. kevin lim

    If the data that cities collect isint being analyzed, and used then the cities are just wasting their time to collect the information. the information that cities collect could be used to lower crime rates (have more patrol cars in areas with higher chances of crime), or even make public transit more efficient (how many people are in need of transit at specific times and possibly make transit come more often).

    non-personal information should be shared to outside markets because it could possibly bring new products or businesses that were unaware that that particular city was looking or lacking something that they offered.

  27. Sean

    With data cities may be able to target and identify problems areas more easily and thus improve the overall cities well being. one aspect where Municipalities regardless of size have one piece of information that almost every business to date wants is information about location location location and which are the most profitable. With this data municipalities may be able to leverage taxes specific to areas that may be the most profitable not just based on the size of a business. This could allow for increased revenue for the city as well as better maintenance of the most profitable areas of a city. However this does have the draw back of rising neglect of other less important areas of the city, an example of this is while the Detroit lions and red wings owed the city millions in water use revenues poorer areas of the city where residents were least likely to be able to pay were shut off. However conversely if more profitable areas of the city can be taxed at a higher rate the excess can be used to subsidize more impoverish areas so that all can benefit from the highlights of the city.

    Allowing outsiders access to data opens oneself up to risk, of particular concern to cities such as New York is security. With it criminal groups and terrorists may be able to gain knowledge about which area would be best to set up in and know things which may give them an advantage over law enforcement such as call to arrival times and area of high traffic targets terrorist might be interested in. However I believe the risks out weigh the rewards as opening up the data to third parties allows the resources of those parties to be utilized and so saves the cities money. Also those who are mostly like to use the data are the ones who have the most vested interest such as civil engineering students and construction companies who interests in the data are directly related to the data. If by censoring such information in such as way that information vital to the security of the city can be withheld or used by the city to prevent misuse of it the probabilities of the negative effects of outsourcing the data can be mitigated.

  28. Derek

    The data cities are collecting is pretty much just wasted if they aren’t using them in some sort of analytic capacity. I’m sure they could be used for all sorts of beneficial things such as health-care, transit, crime etc.The proper use of all this accumulated data could increase the quality of life for everyone in the cities where it is properly applied. I think greater benefit could be attained by sharing non-invasive information with outside entities, of course people would be concerned about potentially personal information being shared so cities would have too be careful in the types of information they’re releasing and sharing. Just due to the nature of commercial business being generally more effective than government in providing their services I think it would be a real boon for them to have access to some information as well.

  29. Agatha Harder

    If a municipal government uses the data they already have, I could see the statistics in a city improve due to a fuller understanding of what the issues are in that city, and where the concentration of problems are. This would be done by using the data to pinpoint all the various areas where safety is a concern, where ambulances have a hard time getting to due to congestion, and where crime is the highest. One city I will use as an example is Winnipeg. The city has for years been known as one of the highest crime riddled cities in Canada. It is an old city so some of the apartment buildings are so old that using the fire escape is impossible as the wood would go up in flames in just a couple of minutes if a fire erupted, or just collapse under the weight of the people being forced to use it. By using the data collected through emergency calls and police responders, these problem areas could be pinpointed and some regulations could be put into place for improved conditions and stricter building codes. Improving the buildings would then bring in more upstanding citizens, which would then bring about improvements in all areas of that section of the city, which in turn would then cause crime to go down in that area. This would then solve a major problem and along with that, bring in new opportunities for the citizens.

    I don’t believe that municipal governments should allow outside organizations to access this data as this would then expose certain elements, like people, to the possibility of data mining and an invasion of their privacy. Opening up the data to outside sources would also expose the people on those files to scams related to their conditions or possibly have their information, which is given when there is any kind of emergency, possibly exposed if it wasn’t protected properly by the government. There is always a possibility of someone getting your information, but when it comes down to it, the less information there is available to an outside source, the better.

  30. Andrew Ritchot

    I believe that in any case, information sharing is a controversial issue. In this particular case, it can certainly benefit society in the sense that they do have the ability to improve the functionality and operations of everyday life. By analyzing the data provided, per area it would allow for re-creation of the majority of how we live. Everything from the transit system, to building safety as mentioned in the article.

    I feel I don’t necessarily understand the consequences of the sharing of information in this particular case because I feel it has great benefit to the public to share this information with outside influences/organizations. I believe that without the proper sharing of this information the correct development of city’s is severely limited and is certainly counterproductive. Often times, outside organizations with allow far more insight into how things can be further advanced and offer greater benefit to the collective good.


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