New Orleans will gain access to some top experts in data collection and analysis through a new initiative spearheaded by Bloomberg Philanthropies that aims to help municipalities use information they collect to improve the quality of life for their residents.
The nonprofit selected New Orleans as one of eight initial “What Works Cities” with which it will partner over the next 18 months to provide a number of services to help them better use data to improve city services and solve urban problems.
In addition to New Orleans, Bloomberg Philanthropies chose Chattanooga, Tennessee; Jackson, Mississippi; Kansas City, Missouri; Louisville, Kentucky; Mesa, Arizona; Seattle ; and Tulsa, Oklahoma, to participate in the program. The $42 million initiative eventually will expand to include 100 midsize cities over three years.
The program will provide training for the city’s data team, help in addressing technical issues and a connection to other cities facing similar issues.
The initiative also will give New Orleans access to experts in data collection, evaluation and analysis from the Behavioral Insights Team, Harvard University’s Government Performance Lab, Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Government Excellence, Results for America and the Sunlight Foundation.
The initiative does not involve any direct grant funding to New Orleans.
In general terms, New Orleans will use the partnership to make the most of data it already collects by using the information to guide its decisions in areas including public safety, public health and blight remediation, officials said.
That means better incorporating data into the city’s budget, operational and policy decision-making processes and using “low-cost, rapid evaluations” to improve various programs, Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin said.
“What it really is about is driving innovation through the use of data,” he said.
In practice, that would mean, for instance, that the city might use data generated from 911 calls as a tool to determine how to position ambulances when they’re not out on a call or to figure out if certain alcohol-serving establishments are disproportionate contributors to crime problems.
“We shouldn’t just be worried about the crimes,” Kopplin said. “We should be worried about the businesses contributing to that bad activity.”
The city also might seek to use information on its 80,000 catch basins to prioritize cleaning of the ones that would have the greatest immediate impact or to use attendance data to determine how late in the day and late in the summer libraries and public pools, respectively, should remain open.
“Those are things that come up with citizens and departments,” Kopplin said.
New Orleans already is collecting much of the data it will use in the initiative, he said. That was one reason Bloomberg selected New Orleans.
“But we are not nearly as advanced as we could be,” Kopplin said. “We’re leading the way in a lot of ways, but compared to Amazon or Google or Netflix, there’s a lot more that we can do.”
The initiative also will allow the city to further its stated commitment to transparency by creating programs that give residents access to the same data city officials review when analyzing how well government is performing, Kopplin said.