How New York City Is Mainstreaming Data-Driven Governance

In the early days of online government, cities at the vanguard rightly bragged about taking on “e-gov” as a project. Within just a few years, though, e-gov had moved from a set of individual projects to an ingrained part of innovation and customer service. Now, cities around the country are working to make their immense quantities of data more public and actionable. As these initiatives take hold, the success stories of data analytics will, like e-gov, move from the anecdotal to the mainstream.

That process is well on its way in New York City, an early leader along with Chicago in using big (and little) data to drive innovation. New York is looking to leverage data science more broadly and deeply into existing institutions in an ambitious bid to remake governance.

Mike Flowers, New York’s first chief analytics officer, gathered a team of young data scientists to produce insights from the city’s largely untapped troves of data. His work ventured where there was little precedent, and so he worked quietly and fiercely on a few specific initiatives that he thought could benefit the most from data analytics. That project was a success, and in 2013 Flowers and the mayor formalized the team and created the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics (MODA) as the city’s “civic intelligence center,” where data from across agencies is aggregated, analyzed and turned into actionable solutions.