Introducing the Bloomberg Philanthropies City Data Alliance: Data as a service

Yesterday, Bloomberg Philanthropies launched the City Data Alliance. The program aims to bring more cities to an advanced standard for data practices to improve resident outcomes.

100 cities from North and South America will receive specialised training, expert coaching, and an advanced executive education program.

We’re really excited to announce that Public Digital will be working with Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Johns Hopkins University Center for Government Excellence, the Harvard Kennedy School Government Performance Lab and the Behavioural Insights Team to deliver it. Public Digital will work with cities across the US, Canada, and Latin America, helping them to mature their data practices and policies, and so improve people’s lives and work.

Is your city ready? City governments on the American continent can apply to join the Alliance now.

Aerial photo of Mexico city by Andrea Leopardi

Photo by Andrea Leopardi on Unsplash

Deliver data projects with purpose

Our partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies began on the other side of the Atlantic. A little over two years ago, Public Digital worked with the Greater London Authority (GLA), with the support of Bloomberg Philanthropies, to help them start answering the question: “How should the GLA be set up to deliver data services most effectively?”

London has since shifted their strategy to create data projects with purpose. We worked with them to put in place the standards, team and investment support to make the approach successful, and an inspiration to cities around the world.

We’ll apply some of the ideas and practices which have evolved in London. These, combined with our experience in digital and data innovation, will develop the idea of “Data as a Service” for the City Data Alliance.

A “Data as a Service” approach means cities turn data into tools tailored to the user’s needs - for example, a database that maps broadband access so city staff can pinpoint and close gaps.

We will help cities to:

  • deliver data services with purpose. This means shifting beyond open data for transparency (while continuing to recognise the value of this), to creating purpose-led data services which make a real difference to meeting users’ needs.

  • support data services with sustainable and scalable practices. It’s common for city data services to emerge from teams who then lack the investment or leadership buy-in to sustain them. We will help city leaders ensure that successful data services are not a one-off, but instead are hard-wired into the operating model of the city. They will have the tools to prioritise investment and fund sustainably, the skills to design, support and improve services, and the policies and practices to scale and repeat the approach.

To deliver this support we’ll be bringing together user research, service design, digital service delivery, and best practices in data and analytics.

We are excited that Jeni Tennison has joined Public Digital to lead our data strategy for the program. She brings deep knowledge and experience as the former CEO of UK’s Open Data Institute, and will be sharing some of her thoughts about “Data as a Service” in a series of blog posts exploring the topic. As ever, we plan to work in the open as we go, and we’d love your feedback, critique and encouragement.

If you want to read more about our work on data in public administration:

Public Digital advises leaders in governments and large institutions around the world on better serving the public through digital transformation - using the culture, processes, business models and technologies of the internet era to respond to people’s raised expectations - and are experts in building and scaling data as a service capabilities in cities. We’ve helped cities, states, and countries across the world refine their data strategies, build world-class data teams, and apply data to inform strategies from city funding to covid-19 response.

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