I remember that in middle school I loved playing Sim City, a city building and management simulation game. I started out optimistic, but as in all urban planning games, expansion was my nemesis. My inexperience in constructing sustainable and scalable solutions resulted in catastrophic consequences for my sim citizens. I didn’t quit though. Every time I restarted the game I became better at picking up on red flags that signaled disasters incoming. More experience and a constant stream of new data points informed better decisions.
Likewise, although our municipal leaders have the expertise to do a much better job at governance than I, they too can use data to drive socioeconomic growth, efficiency, sustainability, and societal progress. Let’s take a look the Amsterdam Smart City Initiative and how the city has used data, analytics, and machine learning to become Europe’s Capital of Innovation in 2016.
First they had to centralize the 12,000 separate data sets. City Data became the Smart City engine built on an open source platform. Because people can freely access this database, people of Amsterdam became collaborators. The government set up more than 80 pilot projects throughout the city via partnerships between the local citizens, businesses, local municipality, and technology and subject matter experts. Here are a few examples:
- Identified areas with high levels of depression and disproportionately low levels of care.
- Funneled funds into educating those who resisted or refused mental health treatment.
- Top600 project identified 600 residents with the most extensive criminal records, and the city extended extra social service programs to their siblings.
- Identified the preferred method of communication for certain groups of people, and broadcasted alert messages through the most effective channel
- Identified areas likely to flood
Fueled by the centralized City Data, Amsterdam continues to progress towards a smarter city that treats its citizens as contributors and innovators rather than simply recipients of a service.