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Jul 2019 | July Issue

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Tyler Sutton, Editor-in-Chief

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

 

Scroll through your local or national media sources and you’re bound to find at least a few stories related to breach of information. Private information hacked in massive data breach. Municipal data held hostage by hackers. New app provides unfettered access to personal data. It appears that we’re entering a new era of data insecurity, and most of us are woefully unprepared. But at the same time as fretting over data privacy and protection, consumers and governments alike are also asking for more data and greater access to information. Citizens are demanding transparency from their governments and public sector organizations themselves are seeking more reliable and meaningful data to help inform their complex decision-making.

For local governments in particular, gathering high quality data can be a challenging endeavour. Compared to senior governments, municipalities have very limited internal capacity to collect information and analyze data in a rigorous and standardized way. Furthermore, local governments report on everything from finance to service delivery to their senior counterparts, and in order to have access to comparative data, municipalities must rely on the capacity of those governments to do the number crunching and their willingness to share that information. And if an organization decides to champion the cause of municipal data collection – whether they be from the academic, non-profit, public or private sectors – they inevitably encounter the quagmire that is unstandardized data, limiting the potential for meaningful analysis and benchmarking. 

In the July issue of the Public Sector Digest, we’ve featured practitioners that are leading the way in solving the data accessibility and confidence problem that plagues our local governments. Dr. Patricia McCarney, President and CEO of the World Council on City Data (WCCD), writes that although data is critical to evidence-based decision making at the local level, more data isn’t always the answer: “What cities truly need is high calibre and globally comparable municipal level data.” The Toronto-based WCCD is working with cities around the world to help develop and then promote the adoption of ISO standards related to sustainable cities (ISO 37120), resilient cities (ISO 37123) and smart cities (ISO 37122). In adopting these standards for data collection and performance measurement, the world’s cities will be able to compare apples to apples when it comes to the most pressing indicators of municipal sustainability, resiliency and innovation.   

In Canada, much of the commentary and analysis surrounding public policy centers on issues of provincial and federal jurisdiction. But as Jack Lucas of the University of Calgary explains, policy decisions made at the local level have the potential to significantly impact Canadians in our increasingly urbanized world. “Every year, local elected officials in Canada oversee more than $185 billion in public spending, and control more than $500 billion in physical and financial assets” writes Lucas. In order to address this policy blind spot, the University of Calgary has partnered with municipal leaders and not-for-profits across the country to launch the Canadian Municipal Barometer with the mandate to generate high quality and comparable data on municipal public policy and democracy in Canada.   

Finally, accessing data and information as it relates to the maturity of governments in their own data management practices is seemingly impossible. Some global benchmarking initiatives exist to compare countries on data transparency and accountability, but at the sub-national level, benchmarking becomes much more siloed and inconsistent. PSD was excited to announce earlier this year that we would be launching the fourth iteration of the Open Cities Index (OCI) benchmarking survey in conjunction with the second Geospatial Maturity Index (GMI) survey. These two trailblazing initiatives – measuring maturity in open data and GIS programming across the public sector – provide government organizations with a clear indication of gaps in maturity and a roadmap for addressing those gaps. We encourage you to complete the OCI and GMI surveys for your respective organization by September 13th 2019, and to help continue the discussion around the challenges and opportunities of benchmarking data maturity in the public sector, we have now launched The Benchmark Blog. Visit this new online resource to stay up to date on topics related to open data, asset management and geospatial programs in the public sector, and become a guest blogger if you have a story or insights to share. 

Tyler Sutton, Editor-in-Chief
Public Sector Digest