3 big ideas for big data in the public sector

Predictive analytics, code sharing and distributed intelligence could improve criminal justice, cities and response to pandemics.

If you’re going to try to apply the lessons of “Moneyball” to New York City,’ you’ll need to get good data, earn the support of political leaders and build a team of data scientists. That’s precisely what Mike Flowers has done in the Big Apple, and his team has helped to save lives and taxpayers dollars. At the Strata + Hadoop World conference held in New York in October, Flowers, the director of analytics for the Office of Policy and Strategic Planning in the Office of the Mayor of New York City, gave a keynote talk about how predictive data analytics have made city government more efficient and productive.

While the story that Flowers told is a compelling one, the role of big data in the public sector was in evidence in several other sessions at the conference. Here are three more ways that big data is relevant to the public sector that stood out from my trip to New York City.

Read more…

Comment: 1 |

Two recommended talks from DataGotham

Michael Flowers on how New York City uses its data and Sinan Aral on the nature of online influence.

A few weeks ago, I attended DataGotham, the first conference celebrating the New York data community. It was a great short conference: good people, great speakers, great party at the Tribeca Rooftop. (Guess what? The CIA is hiring. Or so we’re told.)

My two favorite speakers were Michael Flowers and Sinan Aral. It was great to hear a New Yorker who really sounded like a New Yorker, and who clearly knew the streets. Mike directs New York’s Policy and Strategic Planning Analytics team, and talked about using data to optimize New York’s operations. A theme that I’ve seen repeatedly is that many organizations have lots of data that they don’t know how to use. In many cases, they don’t even know that the data is valuable. Mike talked about how New York City is putting that data to use. For example, his team is using tax records to optimizing building inspections. Buildings on which taxes are owed are much more likely to have a fire, and it’s much, much more likely that a firefighter will be injured in one of those fires. So once you know where the tax problems are, you’ve found the most dangerous buildings, and can prioritize your inspections.

Sinan’s talk was the proverbial “drinking from a firehose”: fast and furious, with more insight packed into 20 minutes than most people can get into a full day. His research is on the nature of online influence, and started with the idea that Ashton Kutcher has millions of Twitter followers, but if he told his followers to do something, very few of them would actually do it. Twitter followers and Facebook friends are self-selecting, and are likely to self-organize around similar behaviors. If somebody tells you to do something that you were already likely to do, is that influence? With careful analysis on Facebook’s huge dataset, Sinan has been able to tease out the real influence relationships.

If you missed out in September, you can attend the DataGotham Reprise that’s part of NYC Data Week. All of the events in Data Week are free and open to the public. If you can’t make the Data Gotham Reprise, you can watch all the talks on their YouTube channel. And if you like that, Mike Flowers will be keynoting at O’Reilly’s Strata Conference + Hadoop World in New York, October 23-25.

Comment |

NYC Data Week, with a scheduling twist

NYC Data Week is October 22-26. Most events are open and free, and you can add your own to the calendar.

NYC Data Week 2012More than 20 events are already scheduled for NYC Data Week, but there’s an interesting quirk to the planning process: it’s being crowdsourced. That means if you’ve got a New-York-City-based data event that’s scheduled between October 22-26, you can request that it be added to the NYC Data Week lineup.

The purpose of NYC Data Week is to showcase the application of data across New York City. It includes events relevant to startups, established businesses, government, education, finance, and science. If you’re working with data, you’ll have an easy time spotting something of interest — and that crowdsourced option is available in the off chance you don’t see what you’re looking for.

Below you’ll find a few highlights from the current schedule. Most events are open to the public and free to attend. Read more…

Comments: 2 |

Predictive data analytics is saving lives and taxpayer dollars in New York City

Michael Flowers explains why applying data science to regulatory data is necessary to use city resources better.

A predictive data analytics team in the Mayor's Office of New York City has been quietly using data science to find patterns in regulatory data that can then be applied to law enforcement, public safety, public health and better allocation of taxpayer resources.

Comment |