Ash Center Report Makes Key Policy Recommendations for Cities Grappling with Data Analytics

July 30, 2018
City Lights
Cambridge, MA – Today, the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School released a white paper capturing lessons learned from a variety of municipal-level data analytics projects to help cities better understand how data- and tech-enabled innovations are aiding urban governance.
Analytics in City Government: How the Civic Analytics Network Cities Are Using Data to Support Public Safety, Housing, Public Health, and Transportation,” draws on various approaches and methodologies developed by members of the Civic Analytics Network, a community of municipal civic data leaders convened by the Ash Center to support the growth and replication of analytics capacities in cities across the United States. The paper highlights steps that cities can adopt to develop their own data analytics initiatives; catalogs the experiences of various U.S. cities using data analytics in the public safety, housing, public health, and transportation sectors; and offers important policy recommendations to support cities interested in developing or furthering their data analytics capabilities.
“In the push to develop analytics programs of their own, some cities lack the institutional memory and experience that can help initiate, scope, and implement a successful analytics project,” said Stephen Goldsmith, the Daniel Paul Professor of the Practice of Government and the Director of the Innovations in American Government Program at the Ash Center. “We’re hopeful that this report can serve as a resource for cities grappling with the questions of how tools like AI and machine learning can be harnessed to improve the delivery of government services.”
“Analytics can offer new insights and improvements to city governance across core issue areas,” the report states. The report offers six key policy recommendations “to help spur and guide the effective development of analytics projects in other cities across the U.S.” Specifically, the report calls on cities to:
  1. Produce an open data policy roadmap;
  2. Create programs and job descriptions that promote broad data literacy;
  3. Incentivize and enable cross-departmental collaboration to connect personnel and data resources from across city government;
  4. Adopt enterprise-wide procedures that facilitate data-driven insights;
  5. Link civic engagement with city analytics; and
  6. Produce guardrails to protect equity and fairness issues.
“City Halls that follow these policy recommendations developed from experiences working with Civic Analytics Network cities and partner organizations have a much better chance of successfully leveraging the transformative power of analytics,” added Goldsmith.
About the Civic Analytics Network
The Civic Analytics Network is based at the Ash Center and supported by a grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. It is a peer group of chief data officers that collaborates to advance the use of data analytics and visualizations to improve government service delivery and address critical social and urban problems.
The report is an independent work product of the Harvard Ash Center; views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the funder.
About the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation
The Roy and Lila Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation advances excellence and innovation in governance and public policy through research, education, and public discussion. Three major programs support our mission: the Program on Democratic Governance, the Innovations in Government Program, and the Rajawali Foundation Institute for Asia. For more information, visit
Contact Information:
Daniel Harsha
Associate Director for Communications
Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation,
Harvard Kennedy School,