ENTRIES TAGGED "New York City"

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.

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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.

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What caused New York’s startup boom?

A few early and broad questions in our exploration of NYC's startup community.

Google's New York officeSince the crisis of 2008 New York City’s massive financial sector — the city’s richest economic engine, once seen to have unlimited potential for growth — has languished. In the meantime, attention has turned to its nascent startup sector, home to Foursquare, Tumblr, 10gen, Etsy and Gilt, where VC investment has surged even as it’s been flat in other big U.S. tech centers (PDF).

I’ve started to poke around the tech community here with a view toward eventually publishing a paper on the rise of New York’s startup scene. In my initial conversations, I’ve come up with a few broad questions I’ll focus on, and I’d welcome thoughts from this blog’s legion of smart readers on any of these.

  • How many people in New York’s startup community came from finance, and under what conditions did they make the move? In 2003, Google was a five-year-old, privately-held startup and Bear Stearns was an 80-year-old pillar of the financial sector. Five years later, Google was a pillar of the technical economy and among the world’s biggest companies; Bear Stearns had ceased to exist. Bright quantitatively-minded people who might have pursued finance for its stability and lucre now see that sector as unstable and not necessarily lucrative; its advantage over the technology sector in those respects has disappeared. Joining a 10-person startup is very different from taking a job at Google, but the comparative appeal of the two sectors has dramatically shifted.
  • To what degree have anchor institutions played a role in the New York startup scene? The relationship between Stanford University and Silicon Valley is well-documented; I’d like to figure out who’s producing steady streams of bright technologists in New York. Google’s Chelsea office, opened in 2006, now employs close to 3,000 people, and its alumni include Dennis Crowley, founder of Foursquare. That office is now old enough that it can generate a high volume of spin-offs as Googlers look for new challenges. And Columbia and NYU (and soon a Cornell-Technion consortium) have embraced New York’s startup community.
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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.

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Top Stories: October 3-7, 2011

Top Stories: October 3-7, 2011

Why Oracle's big data move matters, inside PhoneGap, and data drives NYC's quest to become a premiere digital city.

This week on O'Reilly: Edd Dumbill explained why Oracle's Big Data Appliance is both a validation and a sign of battles to come, we dug into PhoneGap's cross-platform app capabilities, and we surveyed New York City's data and open government efforts.

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How data and open government are transforming NYC

How data and open government are transforming NYC

New York works to become a premier digital city.

New York City has become the epicenter for experiments in data-drive governance — from citizensourcing smarter government to embracing a broader future as a data platform. Here, NYC officials Rachel Sterne and Carole Post discuss the city’s data initiatives.

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