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Luján de Cuyo, Argentina

Bajo Luján’s Journey to New Housing.

Project Type:
Community Engagement, Environment, Equity, Health and Wellbeing, Infrastructure, Public Safety, Technology, Transportation

At a Glance


Relocated more than 1200 families who lived in flood-prone areas.


Created a workforce development initiative that employed residents, renovated public land and expanded access to recycling centers.


Improved access to territorial data, which made getting land permit data faster—going from months of waiting to just three clicks. The platform, Luján 3D, allows renovations and housing development to have substantial improvements.


Improved accessibility for residents with disabilities through an adapted bicycle program.

In 2016, a survey conducted by the city of Luján de Cuyo, Argentina, revealed a heartbreaking reality. There were about 3,500 families who lived in marginal or informal neighborhoods, of which 700 were concentrated in the Bajo Luján area, often without basic services. The most vulnerable residents lived near a flood-prone river, underscoring the urgency for change. As a result, the City developed an ambitious urbanization and relocation project, supported by the World Bank.

At the heart of the initiative was a resident-driven approach. Residents were surveyed to identify and prioritize needs, including proximity to employment, family size, and level of need to minimize disruption to their daily lives. Efforts to monitor the impact of this relocation were key. A survey and audit process was initiated, capturing residents’ experiences before, during and after the move. This data was visualized through PowerBI dashboards, allowing real-time tracking of project progress.

“Governing is making decisions. Doing it well requires exceptional use of data. If we intend to achieve real impact in the community, our public policies must be data-driven. We dream of becoming an international example of well-managed local government.”

Esteban Allasino, Mayor

The result was the construction of 700 homes in 11 neighborhoods.

This enormous initiative not only provided new homes, but restored a sense of human dignity and trust in government for those who had long been marginalized.

Seven hundred safe and practical homes is a significant achievement.

Additionally, the community intervened and regularized other settlements benefiting 500 families, completing a very ambitious stage that managed to reach more than 35% of the most vulnerable sector of the City.

But the government did not stop there. City leaders knew that housing is only one part of poverty. Thus, in an effort to create employment opportunities, the city turned its attention to residents who worked at the landfills as urban recyclers.

These families made a living collecting recyclable materials from garbage dumps. To help them, the following public policies were promoted: Closure and remediation of garbage dumps, Social inclusion of urban reclaimers, Inclusive Recycling Program – Centro Verde. In this way, the city, together with a group of neighbors, mainly women, officially formed a cooperative. The City provided land and necessary infrastructure.

The Fortress of My Earth, which now has nearly 30 members, launched a program that uses geographic information system (GIS) data to strategically place recycling bins throughout the city. This project successfully increased the number of Green Dots from 8 to 65, ensuring that residents could easily find a container within 500 meters of their homes. This caused a notable increase in recycling from 2021 to 2023.

The story doesn’t end there. In 2021, the City cut the ribbon on Luján Park,  located in the previously abandoned housing settlement Bajo Luján. The area has been transformed into a lively community space, with children’s play areas with equipment made from recycled plastic from the cooperative.

The Bajo Luján and Centro Verde projects reveal how intertwined initiatives can have an exponential impact on residents’ lives. They boosted citywide sustainability, helping hundreds of Luján de Cuyo residents achieve housing stability and financial independence and building much-needed trust in local government.

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Rock Hill, South Carolina, USA

Public Transportation Steered By Data

Project Type:
Community Engagement, Environment, Health and Wellbeing, Transportation

At a Glance


The percentage of residents who report using public transportation has more than doubled since their fare-free, all-electric public buses began in 2019.


More than 700 alumni of a 10-week civics course provided to residents by the City.


Increasing tree canopy by planting three trees for every one tree the City cuts down.

Rock Hill, SC, tried public transportation in the 1990s. It wasn’t a roaring success; people didn’t know about it and ridership was low. However, in 2015 a Winthrop University survey found that 80% of respondents identified transportation as a top need. With that data point, Mayor John Gettys knew it was time to give public transportation another go.

Data was a guiding force from the start. The City paired the survey with qualitative data from focus groups that also said fixed-route transit would minimize barriers and provide opportunities to residents. With the need established, choosing routes and schedules were the next items on the agenda. Again, the City leaned on resident feedback, partnering with United Way to hold interest meetings. At the same time, regional planning associations used census data and maps to plot routes that would most benefit residents who needed it most. For instance, they didn’t just look at neighborhood density, they looked at where residents without cars lived, and they made sure that routes passed parks, shopping centers, health care facilities and other places residents recommended.

Image Courtesy of the City of Rock Hill.

“The reason we accomplish big things is that we use data to drive decisions, something the City has done consistently over the last 20 years. I think being strategic and utilizing data to solve challenges attracts good representatives who want to come in and do big things, good things for our community.”

John Gettys, Mayor

“Basing decisions on data can minimize the vitriol of partisan politics, it’s an antidote to a lot of the divide we see in our country today.”

John Gettys, Mayor

My Ride not only improves accessibility, it’s making a more sustainable Rock Hill. The fleet of 10 buses are all electric and produced in South Carolina. The buses reduced about 337 metric tons of CO2-equivalent emissions compared to diesel buses in just their first year, they’re also quieter for riders and cost less to operate.

Data guided My Ride’s funding decisions as well. Evidence showed that it was cost-prohibitive to collect fares, and city leadership knew how much the buses contributed to accessibility. Thus, the buses are fare-free. Federal Transit Authority (FTA) funds help meet the majority of the costs, the rest is covered by the City and partner organizations.

As My Ride’s success grows, so too do the City’s ambitious goals for the bus system. When the program started, their ridership goal was 4,100 passenger trips per week—a goal they met in less than two months. Despite the plunge in ridership due to the pandemic, ridership has bounced back. In FY23, My Ride’s monthly ridership goal was 16,400. They averaged 20,839 passenger trips per month. And they did all of those rides with only three customer complaints the whole year.

This isn’t the end of the line for My Ride. The four, hour-long routes already serve about two-thirds of city residents, and the City is constantly collecting feedback and setting goals for improvement. For example, in 2023 My Ride began to serve additional areas on the existing routes and improved system efficiency.

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Carlsbad, California, USA

Data and a Cross-Sector Approach Lead to Street Safety in Carlsbad.

Project Type:
Community Engagement, Finance, Health and Wellbeing, Infrastructure, Public Safety, Transportation

At a Glance


Using road collision heatmaps and other data to inform interventions, the City saw a 19% decrease in all injury collisions.


Monitored progress and changed course when needed to achieve traffic goals using Performance & Analytics strategies.


City’s staff telecommuting policy reduced employee commute time by 47,000 hours and saved the City between $300,000 – $400,000. It has also improved traffic conditions for all city residents and eliminated 424 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.


Budget and finance processes require data and alignment with the city’s 5-Year Strategic Plan, to ensure funds are efficiently and effectively allocated to address the most important priorities of the community.

The number of collisions involving bikes and e-bikes was already surging in Carlsbad when, in August 2022, two bikers were killed during a 10-day period. The City had issued an ordinance on e-bike safety a few months before, but the tragedies and an alarming 233% increase in collisions involving bike and e-bikes between 2019 and 2022 promoted greater action. City Manager Scott Chadwick declared a 6-month local emergency, which was ratified by the City Council at its next meeting. The emergency allowed the City flexibility to move quickly and focus resources on encouraging everyone to be safer on the road.

Some residents worried that the emergency declaration would lead to less access for bikes or more traffic. But Chadwick was able to reassure them. “We’re going to let the data guide us,” he said. And that is exactly what they did.

Immediately after declaring the emergency, the City began gathering and analyzing additional data on collisions. They created heatmaps to identify the most dangerous intersections, did a 5-year trend analysis, and set up tracking for the future. Armed with data and streamlined procurement processes as part of the emergency declaration, the City was painting key intersections and bike lanes with high-visibility green paint within two weeks. In fact, they moved so fast that they exhausted the supply of green paint in the region.

Within 30 days of the emergency declaration, the City had a full plan in place for improving street safety. The Safer Streets Together Plan seeks to change public behaviors and attitudes by focusing on education, engineering and enforcement. “It wasn’t just, ‘Here’s an emergency.’ The public saw real things happening in the first weeks and months and that’s how this has changed things so quickly,” Chief Innovation Officer David Graham said.

Six months after declaring an emergency, injury collisions across all transportation modes were down by 19% compared to the same time period in the previous year, and injury collisions related to bikes and e-bikes had decreased 13%. Graham points to qualitative measures of success as well – street safety yard signs and car window clings on display throughout the community, residents saying they are wearing helmets and slowing down, and the city’s partnerships with schools and bike organizations.

Because of the positive trends and evidence of behavior change, in March 2023 the City Council voted to extend the emergency declaration for a few more months. City staff hope that a year’s worth of data and analysis will help build a sustainable approach to traffic safety and that the early positive trends will become permanent.

The traffic safety emergency is not the first emergency that Carlsbad has tackled with data-driven decision making. It took a similar and equally successful approach during COVID. Hopefully the City won’t have cause for testing its emergency response again anytime soon, but having a well-honed system for collecting and analyzing data, and for innovating and tracking outcomes means that no matter what the future holds, Carlsbad will be well prepared to handle it.

“To see transformation in government you have to invest in areas that aren’t readily apparent like data and analytics, process improvement and operational excellence. When we work together with our community to discover shared insights around issues like traffic safety, we can create impactful change.”

David Graham, Chief Innovation Officer

It’s not easy to change the way people behave on the road. Often, you’re trying to change habits people have had for years or decades, for better or worse. By taking a balanced approach to traffic safety and digging into the data, we can see what’s working and what isn’t working, and learn how to be more effective as we move forward.

Scott Chadwick, City Manager

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Montevideo, Uruguay

Proving That Smooth Data Practices Translate to Smooth Traffic

Project Type:
Community Engagement, Infrastructure, Public Safety, Transportation

At a Glance


10 transit intervention plans created for hotspot traffic areas.


Reduced annual traffic fatality rate to 6.2 per 100,000 residents—half the country’s overall rate.


Used strong Data Management practices to develop impactful traffic interventions with real-time data.


In recent decades, the leaders of Montevideo, Uruguay, have become familiar with a simple fact with far-reaching consequences: more people means more vehicles. As Uruguay’s commercial, political and cultural hub, Montevideo is no stranger to traffic. In 2015, its leaders set out to address the City’s massive traffic problem in a data-driven way. The City installed dozens of real-time sensors along major routes, created a new Center for Mobility Management to monitor and manage traffic data collection, and implemented a new mobility plan to cool off hotspots.

After building a data visualization platform that displays real-time traffic levels across Montevideo’s road network, and holding neighborhood meetings to understand residents’ traffic concerns, the City focused transit interventions on 10 particularly congested hot zones. Leaning heavily on sensor data analyses, they simulated the impact of different traffic engineering solutions—such as changing the timing and duration of traffic signals, or making a street one-way—and then settled on the most impactful options for each site. This access to high-quality, real-time data, combined with strong data governance practices, allowed the City to better understand the problem and then to develop and test tailored solutions for the hotspot zones.

“We don’t want to collect information just to verify the reality, we want to collect information to change the reality.”

Carolina Cosse, Mayoress

In addition to real quality-of-life improvements for Montevideo drivers, the City also realized environmental benefits, including reduced CO2 emissions, due to less idling, and better fuel economy. Moreover, the City’s commitment to improving traffic flow is helping to save lives. Montevideo’s annual traffic fatality rate is now 6.2 per 100,000 residents—half the country’s overall rate. City leaders believe that the installation of speed radars across the City, along with efforts to lower congestion in hotspots, has helped change driver behavior and prevent traffic-related deaths.

When you can measure a problem, you can manage it—and that’s exactly what Montevideo officials are doing, street by street.

“For us, What Works Cities Certification is a way to measure our performance. The goal isn’t to be happy with where we are now—although we’re proud of our progress—but rather to evolve and provide better services to residents.”

Carolina Cosse, Mayoress

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Fortaleza, Brazil

Data-Driven Approach Cuts Traffic Deaths by 57%.

Project Type:
Community Engagement, Infrastructure, Public Safety, Transportation

At a Glance


Reduced traffic fatalities by 57% over 10 years (2012-22)


1,086 lives saved


Eight consecutive years of fatality reductions


Mayor José Sarto signed a commitment to reduce fatalities by another 50% in the next 10 years


Monitored progress and changed course when needed to achieve traffic goals using Performance & Analytics strategies

At a recent public hearing on traffic accidents in Fortaleza, everyone participating shared that they knew someone who had lost their life or was critically injured in an accident. With 5 million daily trips and 29% of motorists on motorcycles, traffic fatalities have been an unfortunate part of life for Fortaleza’s 2.6 million residents.

In 2012, Fortaleza took action. Starting with historic traffic data, the City set goals and made evidence-based decisions about speed limits and traffic patterns. In 2021, it launched the Vida platform to consolidate traffic data from varying institutions and make it publicly accessible.

With these performance management and data-driven approaches, the City reduced traffic fatalities by 57% over 10 years. Additionally, the City established a road safety committee that meets every 15 days to review crash data and predictive analysis, using it to adjust strategies. The first city in Brazil to have a municipal road safety plan as law, Fortaleza has saved 1,086 lives and saved the City close to $42 million Brazilian Reals ($8.3 million USD).

“All of our actions, everything we do, is based on data and evidence.”

Elcio Batista, Vice Mayor

Still, Mayor Sarto is acutely aware that the City saw 158 traffic deaths in 2022, and he is committed to reducing fatalities by another 50% by 2031.

Fortaleza’s aim to realize Vision Zero—an international program working to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries—is just one of the data initiatives that has helped the City achieve What Works Cities Gold Certification. With its focus on data, the City has reduced school dropout rates, digitized its construction permitting process and launched an app to track sexual harassment on public transit. Fortaleza has also made progress on building a data culture: They developed a clear governance structure to coordinate data use, launched an Open Data Plan to guide data oversight, and concentrated over 200 datasets from 28 organizations in an Open Data Portal. By making so much City data publicly available, the City is promoting informed decision-making, transparency and robust resident engagement.

Vice Mayor Elcio Batista sees even more progress on the horizon. “Being Certified makes me proud and hopeful. Proud of what we have accomplished and hopeful for what is still to come.”

“By achieving Certification, it shows we are trying to do things the right way. It’s an honor for us, for the team, and it gives us a passport for the future.”

Jose Sarto, Mayor

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Topeka, Kansas, USA

Transparency, Engagement, and Results in Topeka.

Project Type:
Community Engagement, Communications, High-Performing Government, Infrastructure, Transportation

At a Glance


Launched a series of interactive datasets and maps for residents to track the city’s budget and capital improvement projects, promoting accountability and transparency.


Produced video tutorials and how-to guides to help residents understand and use the city’s new open data portals, encouraging public engagement and input.


Created a scoring index to measure the quality of every paved street in Topeka in order to prioritize street improvement projects and develop a cost-effective infrastructure improvement plan.

Topeka’s Not Afraid to Connect

If you had walked through the doors of Topeka City Hall earlier this year, a bright green and yellow banner would have greeted you with an engaging question: “How would you spend $96.5 million of the City of Topeka’s money?” The banner, jointly created by the city’s Administrative & Financial Services Department and Department of Neighborhood Relations, was posted in city administrative buildings downtown and invites people to visit the city’s performance portal to “Hold us accountable!” and “Track how we are measuring up.”

Topeka’s budget banner in the Cyrus K. Holliday Building.

It’s a high-visibility tactic to pull residents into the 2021 budget engagement process in Topeka, which sits along the Kansas River in the state’s northeast corner. The banner also signifies the capital city’s commitment to performance, transparency, and community engagement — all of which city officials see as crucial for building trust, meeting the needs of about 125,000 residents, and spending tax dollars efficiently.

A User-Friendly Foundation

Just a few years ago, Topeka’s government wasn’t nearly as open to its residents. The data revolution that spread across the country during the 2010’s changed that: city leaders committed to increasing access to data inside and outside of City Hall. And they started engaging the community to solve problems.

“The goal was and is to provide the public with greater access to city data and opportunities to work collaboratively on complex challenges facing our community. By increasing the city’s accountability, we were building trust with residents and changing the way the city operates.”

Deputy Director of Information Technology & Chief Software Officer Sherry Schoonover

The launch of Topeka’s open budget portal in 2015 marked a turning point. For the first time, residents could access datasets that showed, down to the line item, how the City aimed to spend their tax dollars. The City released its 2016 budget on the same portal, making the proposed budget accessible to residents for review and feedback. But the commitment to transparency didn’t stop there. In 2016, under the direction of Schoonover, the City launched the Topeka Capital Projects Dashboard. Its interactive map helps residents visualize the City’s capital improvement plan and get current information on capital projects across the city, including whether they’re on schedule and on budget.

Image of Topeka’s Capital Projects Dashboard and interactive map.

The same year, the City also set a strategic goal to increase data-driven decision making. Staff wanted to go way beyond offering snapshots of information through dashboards — so with the assistance of What Works Cities partners the Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University (GovEx), the City launched a formal open data program, passed an open data policy and assembled a data governance team.

Proactive public engagement efforts also ramped up: the city manager launched a weekly report powered by the open data portal that offers updates from departments and divisions, and links to performance dashboards. To help residents navigate various portals, the City created video tutorials and how-to guides.

And for the first time in a decade, the City in 2018 conducted a Citizen Satisfaction Survey to align goals, policies, and spending with the priorities of Topeka residents. They voiced three top priorities: maintenance of city streets (the top concern), managing traffic congestion, and enforcing city codes and ordinances.

Data-Driven Streets

Well before survey results were in, City Hall staff knew that road conditions across Topeka were a weighty issue. A few years earlier, the city adopted a data-driven approach known as the Pavement Management Program (PMP) to prioritize improvements to this key infrastructure. The initiative would turn out to be crucial for winning public support for continued investments.

“The City of Topeka has been using data-driven decisions for years when developing our city’s goals and priorities. By using the Pavement Management Program, the City of Topeka has been able to build trust within our community in improving quality of life through infrastructure and transparency.”

Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla

PMP has three core components: the Pavement Condition Index (PCI), improvement strategies, and funding. The index scores the quality of every paved street in Topeka on a 0–100 range. A Fall 2016 assessment of all streets within the city’s jurisdiction showed:

  • 57 percent in poor condition
  • 18 percent in fair condition
  • 25 percent in good condition
  • An average system-wide PCI score of 55 (between fair and poor)

With this baseline data in hand, the City created a strategic plan for cost-effective street improvements built around measurable performance goals. In 2017, the Topeka Governing Body set a goal of pushing the average system-wide PCI score to at least 60 by 2029, and to be on course to reach an eventual PCI score of 70.

Image of Topeka’s Pavement Condition Index map.

Pushing the average score higher would cost millions in additional annual funding — a reality the public works team illustrated with detailed forecasts it presented to the City Council.

Table presented by the Public Works Department to the Topeka Governing Body during on Feb. 7, 2017, detailing the different funding levels, and corresponding backlogs, to achieve different PCI goals for street conditions.

If Topekans wanted streets to improve, they’d have to pay for it. In November 2018, they elected to do just that. Sixty-one percent of voters in the city approved a ballot measure that extended a half-cent sales tax for 10 years to fund street maintenance projects. If it had failed, the PMP would have lost more than half its budget — and the City wouldn’t have been able to maintain the 55 PCI score, let alone make progress on its goals.

The stakes were clear, so the City launched an interactive website informing residents how the money from the current half-cent sales tax was used for road repairs and what could be done if voters approved a 10-year extension. Videos showed road improvement strategies and before-and-after photos of repaired roads. Using predictive modeling, residents could peruse the data to see the impact of not renewing the sales tax.

All the upfront data-building work paid off — and the City Council brought into the PMP as well. To accelerate progress on street improvements, it allocated an additional $6 million over three years to ensure the city stays on track to achieve its PCI goal of 60.

Image of Mill and overlay work being completed at SW 17th Street and SW Fairlawn Road in Topeka. Courtesy of the City of Topeka.

Many Topeka residents likely haven’t heard of the Pavement Condition Index. But behind the scenes, it’s powering progress. If residents call the public works department asking why their neighbors’ street was repaved but theirs wasn’t, staff can now explain the decision, backed up by data.

Holistic Neighborhood Improvements

Streets are just one aspect of a neighborhood’s quality of life. Topeka has also taken a data-driven approach to understand the overall health of neighborhoods, and then outline a plan for strategic reinvestment. The City’s Team Up to Clean Up initiative, run by the Division of Community Engagement, provides hands-on help. Through this program, residents, city staff, local businesses, and community partners volunteer their time and services to breathe new life into areas in need.

It all starts with the data underpinning the City’s Neighborhood Health Map. Here’s how it works: every three years, the planning department updates the map to give each neighborhood an overall health rating based on poverty level, public safety, average residential property values, homeowner tenure, and the presence of boarded houses. Neighborhoods receive one of four overall ratings, akin to triage at a hospital. A “Healthy” rating is optimal; “outpatient,” is favorable; “at risk,” means negative conditions are emerging; and “intensive care,” means conditions are seriously distressed.

Image of Topeka’s 2017 Neighborhood Health Map. Courtesy of the City of Topeka.

The City prioritizes disadvantaged and socio-economically challenged neighborhoods rated as intensive care for Team Up to Clean Up, but selection also depends on the willingness of the Neighborhood Improvement Association (NIA) to work with the city. Once neighborhoods are selected, the Division of Community Engagement leads walk-and-talk sessions with community members to listen to their concerns, learn what supports are needed beyond home and street repairs, and link residents with social service organizations via a neighborhood resource fair.

In 2019, Topekans teamed up to clean up two neighborhoods, East End and Ward Meade. Volunteers painted home exteriors, trimmed trees, and replaced porches, and city staff repaired streets and sidewalks, among other activities. In the East End, Habitat for Humanity held workshops on home maintenance topics like siding repair and gutter care. The fire department, one of six city departments helping to improve the neighborhood, installed fire detectors and house numbers. By providing the NIA with tools and resources needed to sustain many of these efforts, the city aims to improve neighborhoods’ overall health ratings.

City of Topeka Utilities Department employees working in the Ward Meade neighborhood during the fall of 2019 as part of the Team Up to Clean Up initiative. Image courtesy of the City of Topeka.

“This program illustrates that despite economic conditions, with community-wide support networks it is possible for disadvantaged neighborhoods to thrive and promote resources to improve the overall quality of life for their neighbors,” says Monique Glaudé, the city’s Director of Community Engagement.

A New Era Emerges

Years ago, city leaders heard criticism from stakeholders that the government was not transparent, that officials had something to hide. The City of Topeka still has its share of internal and external challenges — no city is perfect — but a lack of transparency is no longer one of them.

City leaders are committed to providing the public with timely and reliable information on decisions and performance, via City Manager Brent Trout’s weekly reports and other resources. Under Trout’s leadership, a Rapid Process Improvement initiative has streamlined city processes to eliminate redundancies and waste. That’s led to cost-savings for taxpayers and time-savings for city staff.

2019 summary of results achieved by Topeka’s Rapid Process Improvement. Image courtesy of the City of Topeka.

These efforts have not gone unnoticed by Topekans, says Mayor De La Isla.

“There’s an overall feeling that we are more approachable and responsive, and people have an understanding of what we are trying to accomplish for our community. We can go to sleep every night knowing what we are doing for our community and that we can show results.”

Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla

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Tempe, Arizona, USA

 

Project Type:
Communications, Cross-Sector, Health & Wellness, High-Performing Government, Infrastructure

2023 Platinum Certification

  • Launched Vision Zero, a data-driven traffic safety initiative with a goal to achieve zerofatal and serious injury crashes. The Vision Zero task force is composed of over 50 stakeholders including city departments (police, transportation, fire) and community stakeholders (Arizona State University, school districts, public health agencies) that conducted an analysis of crash data for the years 2012 through 2017. Using that data, the task-force created 37 transportation safety strategies, including the creation of four safety corridors based on statistical analysis of a higher propensity for collisions, plans for new road infrastructure, and community outreach plans.
  • Uses a performance-led budget process based on metrics, and resident and business satisfaction surveys. For example, following an increase in emergency service calls in the Salt River Bottom, an area with significant natural hazards and a large homeless population, an Incident Management Team was launched. In 2023, the City achieved several of its goals, including 66% of people engaged accepting shelter services and 52 tons of debris and over 3,200 tons of vegetation were removed. Based on these initial results, new, recurring funding has been allocated to support the City’s high priority “community health & safety” metrics.

2020 and 2021 Gold Certification

“I am enormously proud that our city has achieved Bloomberg Philanthropies What Works Cities Platinum status. This award shows our community that we are leaders in using data to guide our community’s future and make informed decisions. We can show people that our city has saved time and money and has been able to benchmark progress to our goals because of our commitment to data.”

Corey Woods, Mayor

Compiled data from the city’s sewage system monthly to track community drug use patterns and understand the depth of opioid use.


Using this data, monitored areas with high opioid use and deployed emergency response resources and abuse prevention interventions to hotspots accordingly.


Utilized similar wastewater testing data and tracking methods to monitor COVID-19 levels and identify outbreaks.

The Desert City’s Approach to Data

Like so many other cities in the country, Tempe, Arizona has been deeply affected by the opioid abuse crisis. The desert city of nearly 200,000 is part of Maricopa County, Arizona’s most populous area. This county also has the highest number of opioid-related deaths in the state.

As this public health emergency became more devastating in Tempe and around the country, Tempe’s leaders realized they needed to step up in two ways. First, they needed to be transparent about the severity of the problem facing the community. Second, they needed to create innovative solutions to help stem the opioid epidemic.

In 2018, the Strategic Management and Diversity Office, in partnership with ASU’s Biodesign Institute, submitted a proposal to the Tempe City Council Innovation Fund. The proposal focused on using wastewater to track the presence of opioid metabolites at the community level. City leaders supported the idea with innovation funds and began a partnership with ASU to tap this unlikely resource for data and to better inform decisions. Today, Tempe is on the cutting-edge of opioid abuse prevention work in the United States and has expanded this partnership to gather data on the presence of COVID-19 in the community.

“Cities may not want to call attention to opioid overdoses or abuse in their community,” said Wydale Holmes, a strategic management analyst in the city’s Strategic Management & Diversity Office.

“In Tempe, we’re courageously saying, ‘Yes, we have that, but we’re also doing something about it.’

It turns out that sewage offers an abundance of public health-related data — including a community’s drug consumption patterns. Tempe leverages its wastewater to identify areas of the city with elevated levels of opioid compounds — and then deploys emergency response resources and abuse prevention interventions to hotspots accordingly. All of this aligns to one of Tempe’s performance measures: ending opioid-related abuse and misuse by 2025, as measured by the percentage of 911 calls likely related to the drugs.

“Tempe is committed to data-informed community solutions. This first of its kind city model using wastewater-based epidemiology data informs strategic policy and operational decisions to advance community health.”

Director of the Strategic Management and Diversity Office Rosa Inchausti

It’s great to have data, but if you’re not doing anything with it or connecting it to resources and strategies for change, then it’s just information.”

Strategic Management Analyst Wydale Holmes

A New Diagnostic Matrix

Testing wastewater for real-time information about key markers of public health — everything from viruses to food contaminants to drug compounds — has been around for decades. But the approach is relatively uncommon in the United States. And no other city is trying to map the needs of residents around the opioid abuse epidemic in this way, said Dr. Rolf Halden, a professor at ASU’s Biodesign Center for Environmental Health Engineering.

“The United States is behind Europe. Every community that has done this work has not abandoned it, which is a testament to how well it works and how successful it is,” said Dr. Halden, who leads the wastewater data collection project in partnership with the City of Tempe.

Dr. Rolf Halden and his team analyzing the wastewater samples.
Image courtesy of the City of Tempe.

Here’s how the wastewater analytics project helps the city identify opioid abuse hotspots and deploy resources strategically. Dr. Halden’s team takes raw sewage samples directly from five collection areas of the city for seven consecutive days each month. The scientists then test for four different types of opioids: fentanyl, heroin, oxycodone, and codeine.

After processing the samples, the ASU team hands off data to Tempe’s Enterprise GIS and Analytics team. The city can see where elevated levels of the four opioids are, and whether the opioids were metabolized or improperly disposed of. But the data contain no personally identifiable information — there is no way to tie data to specific addresses, neighborhoods or businesses.

Created by William Mancini for Fighting Opioid Misuse by Monitoring Community Health and provided courtesy of the City of Tempe.

All data are then published on the public Tempe Opioid Wastewater Collection Dashboard, created and maintained by Dr. Stephanie Deitrick, Tempe’s Enterprise GIS Manager. Through this dashboard and the Opioid Abuse Probable EMS Calls Dashboard, the information is analyzed by a multidisciplinary team, including Tempe’s Fire Medical and Rescue Department, to determine needed interventions. For example, if the data show a rise in opioid use among people under 18 in one area, the city might ramp up in-school outreach efforts. If one area suddenly becomes a major hotspot, the Tempe Fire Medical and Rescue Department can decide which emergency medical services and overdose prevention resources to move or increase to that area.

After implementing interventions, city officials can then track their potential effectiveness by monitoring changes in wastewater data alongside the EMS calls data. It’s a data feedback loop enabling the city to target its efforts — and, hopefully, prevent abuse and deaths.

“Dashboards allow people to quickly see overall trends within the data and to understand who is being impacted and where. Providing context is key when providing data to inform decision-making.”

Enterprise GIS Manager Dr. Stephanie Deitrick

Building a Data-Driven Culture

From its outset, the wastewater analytics project was directly tied to Tempe’s performance measure of ending opioid-related abuse and misuse. The Mayor, City Council, and City Manager set the expectation that reducing calls for opioid misuse or abuse was important to the executive leadership, and that both the goal and the performance measures supporting it needed to be shared internally with the City Council and administrative staff, community partners and externally to residents.

“Whatever we do, we always approach our employees and explain it to them and take the time to have the conversations about what we’re doing and why,” Tempe City Manager Andrew Ching said. “Every job has a purpose, and that job and that purpose exist within the framework of our strategic priorities and performance measures.”

City leaders also worked to communicate their efforts around the opioid abuse epidemic to the general public. The City of Tempe held an Opioid Town Hall in February 2019 to detail the wastewater project partnership and the types of support that Tempe provides to its residents struggling with opioids, their families and caregivers.

Anyone can visit the wastewater data dashboard and the Opioid Abuse Probable EMS Call Dashboard, designed and conceptualized by Dr. Deitrick and her team. The latter dashboard, which launched in 2018, gives Tempe Fire Medical and Rescue Department and the public a window into opioid abuse in the community. It details when calls related to abuse occurred, along with patients’ ages and genders, and the number of times Narcan/Naloxone overdose reversal medication was used during opioid-abuse related emergency calls.

Together, both dashboards inform Tempe officials’ efforts to end opioid misuse and abuse in the city, and help first responders and public health agencies on the ground see the impact of the targeted outreach and other interventions. It’s too early to tell how quickly the city will advance toward its goal — it was officially set in December 2019, when the baseline percentage of opioid-related EMS calls was 3.74 — but the right approach to data is in place to drive progress.

As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold around the world and in Tempe, city leaders have once again partnered with ASU wastewater researchers and are using this data in the same manner as the opioid data. The city is following the data to find areas of greatest need and is directing resources to help.

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South Bend, Indiana, USA

South Bend Charts its Future, One Dashboard at a Time.

Project Type:
Community Engagement, Finance, High-Performing Government, Housing, Parks & Recreation, Public Safety, Technology, Transportation

2023 Gold Certification

South Bend, Indiana has been leveraging data and performance management to support its struggling utility customers. First, throughout 2021, the City closely tracked utility payment behavior to understand household vulnerability. The data work justified and contributed to the design of a post-COVD utility bill forgiveness program that impacted 4,957 households. The City also evaluated its existing, monthly Customer Assistance Program (CAP) and discovered two important things: the monthly discount program was burdensome to apply for and was dramatically undersubscribed. To solve the process problem, the City remade the program into the Utility Assistance Program and adopted best practices by shortening the application, testing it with users, and taking away document requirements. To solve the undersubscription problem, the City created a strategic performance management and outreach program called “Assistance Stat” in 2022. Assistant Stat brought together the Mayor’s Office, the Department of Innovation & Technology, neighborhood canvassers, public health workers, and librarians together to track uptake in various undersubscribed government programs and plan data-driven outreach and events.

2020 Silver Certification


Used the Hub data-site details officer recruitment efforts, breaking data down by gender, ethnicity and hiring stage, and links to more information contextualizing the dataset and explaining the overall recruiting process.



To ensure access to affordable and reliable mobility options, outcomes-based procurement strategies were applied to ensure better quality and more effective rideshare services for community employees and residents.

Committing to Data

For decades, South Bend’s national reputation has centered on “the Fighting Irish,” the famed football team of neighboring University of Notre Dame. The reality is that South Bend is far more complex and dynamic than its image as a college town implies.

The city of about 100,000 people is a former manufacturer hub reinventing its economy for the post-industrial age — something two-term mayor and former Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg liked to note on the campaign trail. And South Bend’s government is also charting a new path for itself. It has led by example in recent years, embracing technology and data-driven practices to spark innovation, engage residents, and improve city services. These new approaches to governance started under Buttigieg and continued under Mayor James Mueller, South Bend’s former Director of Community Investment and Chief of Staff.

As Chief of Staff, Mueller oversaw the launch of a new Department of Innovation & Technology — I&T for short. Over the last four years, the department has provided support to strategic initiatives and internal departments, moving critical projects forward while championing the use of data to improve processes.

“Our Department works across a wide variety of city teams to forward data governance, transparency, process improvement, technology implementation, and analytics,” said Chief Innovation Officer Denise Linn Riedl.

Staffed to serve all city departments, I&T is the centralized office for all things data and technology in South Bend. SBStat, a citywide performance management program, is managed by I&T, along with SB Academy, the government’s internal employee training program for technical skills and leadership. But the department also directly supports things far more visible to South Bend residents — like the police department’s “Transparency Hub.”

“The City of South Bend is committed to data and technology excellence and that was codified with the creation of our Department of Innovation & Technology.”

Chief Innovation Officer Denise Linn Riedl

Boosting Police Transparency

The Hub’s central goal — to gather and share with the public valuable data and information about police operations into one accessible location — aligns perfectly with I&T’s mission. Initially launched in 2017 by I&T and the police department, the Hub features new additions and improvements each year, including a new recruitment and diversity analysis in 2019. Another highlight of the Hub is a dashboard detailing calls for services, shootings and various other crimes.

A dashboard on the police department’s Transparency Hub. Image courtesy of the City of South Bend.

South Bend policing practices came under heightened scrutiny after Eric Logan, a black resident, was fatally shot by a white officer in June 2019. A community outcry followed and national media outlets covered the story as Buttigieg returned to South Bend from the campaign trail. City residents are looking for greater accountability and transparency, and the Hub is an important part of the police department’s commitment to those values. Looking ahead, the city plans to make greater detailed data on Use of Force and include Group Violence Intervention data publicly available on the Hub. The SBPD and I&T teams are also partnering to work with city residents to make the Hub more interactive and user-friendly.

Of course, data transparency is only one step in the journey of broader reform and improvement. As the entire country has focused on reforms to policing following the death of George Floyd, the City of South Bend has worked to move forward with plans to implement multiple policing reforms, including new discipline policies for the department. The Department of Innovation & Technology spearheaded efforts to collect public input on the latest draft of disciplinary changes, as well as facilitating public feedback on budget decisions for 2021.

South Bend Police Officers, I&T, South Bend Council Members, and residents at a Feedback/UX session held to brainstorm improvements to the Police Transparency Hub in 2020. Image courtesy of the City of South Bend.

Beyond accountability and transparency, the Hub also supports the police department’s civic engagement efforts — including partnering with the Behavioral Insights Team (BIT) to recruit a more diverse officer corps reflective of South Bend’s population. The site details officer recruitment efforts, breaking data down by gender, ethnicity and hiring stage, and links to more information contextualizing the dataset and explaining the overall recruiting process. “We want people from our own backyard to join the team, but we also want people from other areas, with other experiences and ideas, to call South Bend home too,” said Ruszkowski.

Why such a focus on recruiting? The city wants potential officers — especially people of color and women — to become familiar with the application process so they can prepare for the steps in the application process where people most often stumble. As a result of this tracking, the police department has already taken action to improve the process, including reducing the number of police officers at interviews and adding new training resources and events before physical tests.

New Views on Green Space

Another data-driven project I&T has helped make reality involves parks. Aaron Perri, the Executive Director of South Bend’s Venues, Parks, and Arts (VPA) Department, wanted to maintain the city’s parks more strategically and efficiently. VPA partnered with I&T and used SB Stat to identify and track park condition metrics over time.

The result of the partnership was the Parks Health Dashboard, an internal tool which will launch publicly in 2020 and includes maintenance statistics regarding mowing, park assets, tree coverage goals, and graffiti removal. But every park’s performance isn’t measured in the same way — staff decided that parks of different sizes and with different facilities should not be benchmarked in the same way. For example, a larger destination park such as South Bend’s Potawatomi Park, should be mowed every five days, whereas a smaller neighborhood park might need mowing every two weeks. After establishing targeted benchmarks, Parks Department staff discovered they were actually over-mowing many parks.

The playground at Potawatomi Park. Image courtesy of the City of South Bend.

Using the analyzed data, the department was able to reduce the overall amount of time and money spent on mowing parks. John Martinez, VPA’s Director of Facilities and Grounds, sees the Parks Health Dashboard as a means to track consistent maintenance goals. While these daily goals seem small to most, in reality they add up to long-term savings for the City while maintaining standards for residents.

“The value and impact of maintenance is hard to quantify, because it’s largely not noticed by the public unless it’s in a state of disrepair,” said Martinez.

“The Parks Health Dashboard allows us to directly show the residents the value of our preventative maintenance programs and capture the meaningful work our employees perform in public spaces. It represents the safety inspections, planning, and intentionality we have with managing community assets.”

Director of Facilities and Grounds John Martinez
A view from the Parks Health Dashboard. Image courtesy of the City of South Bend.

Martinez has also pointed to the motivational power of data for his team. When a frontline worker sees the dashboard displayed, they see how the bars and numbers change from the beginning of their shift to the end. They can see visually how their daily work contributes to system-wide health for the City’s parks.

Beyond improving operations, morale, and transparency, the Parks Health Dashboard also revealed to staff how their work can improve equity across the city. Staff are not simply maintaining parks that receive the most 311 calls for improvements from residents, they are proactively prioritizing parks maintenance based on a comprehensive set of metrics that assess parks health. This new approach ensures parks health is applied equitably across the city regardless of how affluent a neighborhood is, as 311 data shows 311 is a resource that is more likely to be used by residents that live in affluent neighborhoods.

A Data-Driven Future

Additional improvements are planned for both the police department’s Transparency Hub and the Parks Health Dashboard — and the city is moving forward with other data-driven projects involving financial transparency, public health, and transportation access. When data showed that a lack of reliable transportation was the top barrier to employment for one-third of low-income workers in South Bend, the city acted.

I&T is expanding the Commuters Trust program, which aims to solve transportation challenges using support from a three-year grant from the Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge. South Bend piloted the guaranteed-ride program in 2019 with three employers (including the University of Notre Dame) and more than 200 participants. Three-fourths of participants said that guaranteed transportation to and from work prevented them from missing or being late to a shift and allowed them to work more shifts. There was a 29 percent decrease in absences. To ensure access to affordable and reliable mobility options, I&T is applying outcomes-based procurement strategies, with the support from the Government Performance Lab at the Harvard Kennedy School, to ensure better quality and more effective rideshare services for community employees and residents.

The Technology Resource Center, where I&T, Commuters Trust, and the local South Bend Code School work, symbolizes South Bend’s commitment to leveraging data and technology to improve the region and lift up all residents. The 12,500 square-foot facility opened in December 2019 and provides a space where education, government and the private sector can come together to solve problems and grow tech skills, Mayor Mueller said in March. The Center is dedicated to helping everyone learn about technology and data and build an inclusive tech future for South Bend.

The City holds technology and data trainings out of the TRC. The picture above shows a PC refurbishing and giveaway event at the TRC in partnership with the South Bend Community School Corporation and PCs for People. Image courtesy of the City of South Bend.

“We still have a lot of work to do, but I’m proud of what our team has accomplished in partnership with all city departments,” said CIO Riedl.

“Data continues to shape program design, evaluation, and transparency, but we want to take that a step further and engage residents with the City’s data and put that information in service to them. We hope the TRC and its programming can help accomplish that.”

Chief Innovation Officer Denise Linn Riedl

For updates on the data and technology-related work coming out of South Bend, you can follow the I&T team’s Medium Blog.

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Scottsdale, Arizona, USA

From the Pony Express to AI Traffic Control: Scottsdale Drives toward the Future with Data.

Project Type:
Communications, High-Performing Government, Infrastructure, Parks & Recreation, Technology, Transportation

2023 Gold Certification Highlight:


For several years the City of Scottsdale has been tracking and monitoring short-term rental properties and complaints about them. In 2022, the Arizona Legislature passed a law allowing cities to license short-term rentals and regulate nuisance properties. The City quickly sprang into action, adopting rules requiring short-term rentals to be licensed and creating Good Neighbor Guides to educate short-term rental property owners and their neighbors about the requirements. The CIty also created a Short-Term Rental Map Tool that allows residents to view the license status and understand the impact of short-term rentals in their neighborhoods. The Map Tool draws on the City’s Data Service Standard – one of the first cities in the United States to publish one – that guides the City in developing reliable and informative data services and products for its residents and businesses.

2019 Silver Certification


Launched an open data portal that provides performance data to collective benchmarking databases, which allows cities to help each other set more informed targets and put their own progress into perspective.


Used predictive analysis to calculate yearly projected water needs, which has allowed the City to continue a 20-plus-year streak of pumping less groundwater out of its aquifers than it puts back in.


Teamed up with the Behavioral Insights Team (BIT) to identify the effectiveness of messages on utility bills through randomized control trials that led to more customers choosing eco-friendly, cost-effective options such as signing up for paperless billing.


Analyzed the effects of altering traffic signals after prior accidents to develop data-based, location-specific plans for minimizing traffic jams after future accidents.

Honoring Scottsdale’s Memory

The skies were clear blue at noon as a crowd cheered the world’s oldest official Pony Express to the end of its 200-mile journey, outside the Museum of the West, in Old Town Scottsdale. This annual delivery of 20,000 pieces of first-class mail is among the special events and other attractions that bring about 9 million visitors and around $41 million in tax revenue to this Southwestern city each year. Old Town, the City’s downtown, still grows olive trees from its first days of settlement in the late 1800s, at the same time that it has become the spring home of the San Francisco Giants and begun to emerge as a center for high-tech businesses. It’s just one manifestation of how Scottsdale, the “West’s Most Western Town,” is a city that remembers its past while steadfastly preparing for the future.

The Hashknife Pony Express comes to the end of its 200-mile journey in Old Town Scottsdale.

Adopting a Business Mindset in City Hall

Scottsdale stands out for adopting a business mindset to run a well-managed government, embracing transparency so that residents receive the information they deserve, and embedding data in decision-making to ensure the best outcomes. And the efforts are paying off — in conserving water, serving vulnerable residents, minimizing traffic jams, and beyond.

Scottsdale joined What Works Cities in June 2016 and, soon after, codified an open data policy and launched an open data portal. Scottsdale has also deepened its citywide performance management. City Manager Jim Thompson says, “When we look at data and analytics, even though we assumed something was best, when we overlay old data with new or more specific data, we may find a new way to do things.” To continuously evaluate progress is to continuously improve.

The City is publicly reporting on that progress through a public-facing performance management portal, and provides performance data to collective benchmarking databases, an effort that allows cities to help each other set more informed targets and put their own progress into perspective by comparing themselves to other similar municipalities regionally and nationally. Scottsdale has gone on to earn a 2018 Certificate of Excellence in performance management, the highest distinction, from the International City/County Management Association.

If it’s a flaw in a process that’s causing shortcomings in performance, Scottsdale has a solution for that, too: a cross-departmental team that helps colleagues from across City Hall implement process improvements. A recent project involved modernizing the website for reserving facilities like picnic areas or volleyball courts from the Parks & Recreation Department. What was once a landing page with instructions to call a landline transformed into a full-service resource for determining availability and making a booking. Use of the website increased 200 percent in the first month following the redesign. Most importantly, residents are happier, and the ability to provide better customer service is boosting morale among department employees.

Making Every Drop Count

The Scottsdale Water Department Director Brian Biesemeyer was acting City Manager when Scottsdale’s open data work got underway, so it’s no surprise that he’s pointing his team to the numbers to make sure “every drop counts,” as he aptly puts it. As a desert city, Scottsdale understands the value of water to residents and the economy.

Scottsdale’s Central Arizona Project water treatment plant on its Water Campus.

Each year, by October 1, the department must submit its water order for the following year — meaning calculations for projected water needs are already underway 14 months out. In 2018, by using predictive analytics, there was a difference of fewer than 100 million gallons (or 0.4%) between planned and actual water use. An inaccurate prediction could have required tapping into underground aquifers — a crucial reserve in this arid city — or paying for water it didn’t use. An accurate water order not only saved money; it allowed the department to continue to recharge local aquifers. In doing so, the City continued a 20-plus-year streak of pumping less groundwater out of its aquifers than it puts back in. Scottsdale was the first city in Arizona to achieve this feat — known as safe yield — and has received the Sustainable Water Utility Management Award, from the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, the highest industry recognition for municipal water providers. Accurate data analysis and transparency help drive better planning practices that benefit Scottsdale residents now and over the long term.

Data analysis has also saved the department nearly half a million dollars each year by tracing the need for costly meter replacements in one part of the City to a pH imbalance, now corrected, originating from the water plant serving the affected area.

Gathering BITS of Insight

Scottsdale regularly communicates with residents on everything from issuing water bills to recruiting new employees. When Scottsdale joined What Works Cities, it expressed an interest in identifying which messages resonate best with local residents. Scottsdale city staff teamed up with the Behavioral Insights Team (BIT) to determine the answer by using randomized control trials to test the effectiveness of messaging and keep tweaking them accordingly. Pretty soon, they identified messages on utility bills that led to more customers donating $1 per month to local nonprofits, or signing up for paperless billing, a more eco-friendly, cost-effective option.

After ending technical assistance with BIT, the City created a team of internal consultants — the Behavioral Insights Team Scottsdale, or BITS — to carry the work forward by helping staff in departments across City Hall apply behavioral science to their projects. The department that’s engaged most with BITS has been Human Services; they’ve identified effective messaging to recruit more volunteers for programs focused on assisting vulnerable seniors, including Beat the Heat and Adopt-a-Senior.

Most recently, they’ve focused on Adopt-a-Family, a program that recruits volunteers to provide food and gifts for income-eligible families during the holiday season. Human Services Specialist Sue Oh recalls a 2018 volunteer who received a family’s wish list, which included a request for a boy’s polo, and wanted to find out what style the child wanted.

When Oh reached out on behalf of the volunteer, she learned that the child’s mother had passed away; his grandmother was now caring for him and his siblings. Oh related this to the volunteer, who began to cry and shared that her husband had recently passed away. She said, “I know this is what I’m supposed to do,” Oh recalls, and voiced her plans to volunteer again this holiday season.

By integrating testing into communications, Scottsdale is more effectively and efficiently engaging with its residents.

The Road Ahead

Scottsdale’s Traffic Management Center.

Sometimes the effects of using data are quietly unfolding behind the scenes of what most residents see on a daily basis. Take the City’s Traffic Management Center, where analyzing the effects of altering traffic signals after prior accidents has informed the development of data-based, location-specific plans for minimizing traffic jams after future accidents. Now staff are turning those human-gathered insights into algorithms that will eventually allow machine learning to respond with greater precision.

There’s a lesson here: Getting from point A to point B in the best way possible is a great goal for the road — and a useful metaphor for driving progress effectively — but it always involves planning ahead. As Assistant City Manager Brent Stockwell drives back to City Hall after our visit to the Traffic Management Center, he paraphrases how a former council member once put it: “See those trees planted there? They’re there because someone in the past was thinking about the future.”

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San Diego, California, USA

San Diego: Customizing its Own Portal and Building a Smart City.

Project Type:
Community Engagement, Environment, High-Performing Government, Infrastructure, Technology, Transportation

At a Glance


Utilized an open source code to automate the publication of data sets to staff and residents in real time, saving time, resources, and reducing the potential for human error.


Created an app to allow residents to more efficiently report complaints and track progress by the response crews.


Relied on data to prioritize road repairs and how to time them with other infrastructure improvements, such as replacing water or sewer lines, to maximize efficiency.

Making Data Transparent

The City of San Diego has its own way of getting things done. While many of the cities leading the way in data-driven governance have been at this work for years, San Diego was a late bloomer. Most of the City’s open data efforts began in 2014, as Mayor Kevin Faulconer was taking office. Since then, Mayor Faulconer has created a Performance & Analytics Department, and the work has taken off. The City passed an open data policy and, soon after, hired Chief Data Officer Maksim Pecherskiy to begin implementing it.

After coming on board, Pecherskiy’s first order of business was to launch the City’s open data portal, and thanks to his background in programming, he brought a fresh perspective to the task. After reviewing several vendor options, he found that none allowed him to realize his vision. So, he set out to build his own, basing it on an open source project developed in Philadelphia. The portal, which only costs the City around $7 a month to host, launched with an initial 44 data sets voted on by the public for priority release.

Pecherskiy has also leaned on open source code to automate the publication of data sets to the portal. Most cities, he explains, have to publish data sets internally and then externally via distinct processes that can consume between 10 and 20 staff hours per month. But Pecherskiy has made it so that any public data sets automatically publish in both locations, saving time as well as reducing the potential for human error. Staff receive daily email digests with the most updated data, and residents gain access to new data sets nearly in real time. Pecherskiy says there’s also the potential to tie the automation to performance by triggering emails to management when data falls below a certain level.

San Diego also took an unconventional approach to starting its 311 program. The City has never had a designated call center for complaints, so residents often resorted to calling 911 or a non-emergency police number, but the latter was also answered by emergency operators. A resident satisfaction survey showed that 80% of San Diegans didn’t even want to make phone calls to report problems, so the City bypassed the traditional 311 model altogether and went straight to launching its Get It Done app. “We didn’t want to create a new call center that would likely become obsolete in the near future just because that’s how cities have always done it,” says Almis Udrys, Deputy Chief of Staff for Innovation & Policy.

After learning that 80% of San Diegans didn’t want to make phone calls to report problems, the City bypassed the traditional 311 model altogether and went straight to launching its Get It Done app.

Using Get It Done, residents can now report and track progress on a variety of complaints directly from their mobile phones, and response crews are closing the loop by sending “after” photos to residents, who can rate their experience with a thumbs up, thumbs down, or a comment. The app is helping the City become more efficient, too. Before the launch, paperwork for a resolved complaint might sit on a desk for weeks before being reflected in the data, meaning departments couldn’t track how quickly they were responding to issues. Get It Done data is also helping the City in other ways, such as identifying sanitation hazards while partnering with the County to address a recent outbreak of hepatitis A.

The City has applied its newfound data prowess to Mayor Faulconer’s doubled investment in road repairs and ambitious goal to fix 1,000 miles of road by 2020. “I think infrastructure is the ticking time bomb in most cities today,” says Udrys. “Our mayor is really getting out ahead of the problem.” By using data to prioritize repairs and time them with other infrastructure improvements, such as replacing water or sewer lines, the City is ahead of target, and residents can see the progress for themselves on the StreetsSDportal.

By using data to prioritize repairs and time them with other infrastructure improvements, the City is ahead of target on its goal to fix 1,000 miles of road in five years.

Across the City, the world’s largest Internet of Things platform is being rolled out through the installation of street lamps equipped with “smart” technology, part of a partnership with General Electric. Staff can monitor outages and adjust the brightness of the lights remotely, at the same time that sensors in the lamps are providing invaluable data. By monitoring pollution levels, the lamps can help the City better advance its Climate Action Plan, which calls for eliminating half of all greenhouse gas emissions in the City and aims for all electricity used in the city to be from renewable sources by 2035. The sensors will also help the City more effectively monitor parking spot usage, traffic patterns, pedestrian safety, and more.

Street lamps equipped with “smart” technology help the City gather invaluable data from pollution levels to pedestrian safety.

Deputy Chief Operating Officer David Graham recently recalled seeing a young couple and their children among attendees at a demonstration of the lamps. When he asked what inspired them to come, their answer was simple: they wanted their son to be safe if they allowed him to walk to school, and data would go a long way in helping them make the choice.

“We didn’t just want to dump data out there; we wanted to put it out there in formats that people could actually utilize. The data belongs to the people, so they should be able to access it.”

Councilman Mark Kersey

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