BY SRIANTHI PERERA
Following on the heels of Mesa, Tempe, Scottsdale and Glendale, Gilbert has been selected for a new national initiative that would help the town better share information, disperse data, inform local decision making and engage residents.
Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities Initiative, established by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, is designed to accelerate cities’ use of data and evidence to improve people’s lives.
Gilbert, along with nine other cities across the country, was recently added to the list of mid-size cities to partner with the initiative. What Works will limit itself to 100 cities, and the count now stands at 77. There’s no cost for a city to participate.
The Government Performance Lab at the Harvard Kennedy School, Sunlight Foundation (a Washington based nonprofit that advocates open government), Johns Hopkins University, and Results for America are some of its partners.
“We’ve applied for the program a few times and this is the first year that we got accepted and engaged in the program,” said Derek Konofalski, Gilbert’s multimedia analyst.
Gilbert Mayor Jenn Daniels said that Gilbert is “excited to be selected to participate in the What Works Cities initiative.
“We are committed to making government more accessible, and partnering with What Works Cities will further promote our dedication to open data and digital government and will improve our interactions with our residents,” she said.
Konofalski said that the first step is to formulate the town’s policy with help from the Sunlight Foundation and figure out what exactly Gilbert would make public on an open data portal.
“They’re going to help us figure out what types of data we’re going to make public, in what order, what timeframe, how often we’re going to update that data and who’s going to be responsible for which types of data,” he said, and added that it will then be submitted to the town attorney and later be ratified by Town Council before it becomes official.
Public safety and public works data, crime rates and locations of crime and school ratings are possible data sets that could be shared in Gilbert.
“They’ll be able to see and compare,” Konofalski said. “The big benefit is when we put that data live, they’ll actually be able to compare our crime rate directly with some of the other cities in What Works. And the information will be updated regularly.”
Konofalski said that the SPARK APP League, a two-day coding competition for students, may also put the data to good use. Tempe, which was admitted to the initiative earlier this year, is also figuring out the best use of the initiative.
“As a first step in infusing open data throughout Tempe’s website, GovEx and the Sunlight Foundation will work with the Tempe Police Department to build police data sets to be placed online,” states the city’s website. “The data sets involve crime and use of force. In addition, the partners will develop an open data policy and clarify the process for releasing data publicly. Members of the public will be invited to review and comment on a draft policy.”
Meanwhile Mesa, which was admitted to the initiative in 2015, enacted its first Open Data policy, established an Open Data leadership board, conducted a data inventory and established a process for the release of data.