Brian Lee-Archer
March 6, 2017

Build community with digital data

Intelligent Communities

Build community with digital data
 

Being the leader of a community and making decisions to address social and economic challenges may feel like a gambler rolling the dice. You know you have to place bets with no control over how the dice will fall.

The gambler analogy represents the uncertainty facing community decision-makers. Uncertainty is a function of multiple factors, many of which are outside their direct control, such as macroeconomic conditions.

Of the many worthy ideas on the table, which will lead to a return on investment in terms of liveability (social capital) and/or economic value?

Which will serve as a catalyst for a virtuous circle of community growth?

Developing sustainable and resilient communities is not a game of chance; innovative proposals often require bold investment decisions which carry risk. There is renewed focus in public policy-making for risk mitigation through an evidence-based approach.

Evidence-based practice as proposed by the Netherlands based Center for Evidence-Based Management (CEBM), is that “good-quality decisions should be based on a combination of critical thinking and the best available evidence.”

Access to “the best available evidence,” while relative, is an underlying principle of evidence-based management.

Community leaders are adept at making do with evidence which satisfies the best-available test. However, they should aim to expand these sources of evidence to increase reliability.

The rapidly growing repositories of digital data are a source all communities need better access to.

A solid evidence base, according to the CEBM, is a combination of data from internal and external sources (customer data, transactional data), scientific data (academic reports, field studies), stakeholder data (community, business consultation, impact analysis) and professional expertise. Professional expertise is the personal experience of decision-makers and community leaders.

Digital data is an evidence source exploding in terms of volume, veracity and velocity. Sifting through raw data to make it usable to generate business insight is challenging.

As billions of internet of things (IoT) devices are deployed sensing any imaginable activity, this unprecedented scaling up of digital data production is difficult to comprehend, let alone prepare for, in order to derive value.

While a smart city lays out infrastructure to collect data, intelligent communities will develop the capability to make productive use of it. Realising data’s value requires a robust technology platform to enable simplicity in integration and analysis across multiple sources.

It’s not practical for every community to make the large scale technology investments that major cities can undertake. However, this should not deny them the opportunity to enhance the evidence base they have for community level decision making.

There are already large amounts of digital data, with more coming through smart city infrastructure investments made by larger communities and higher levels of government.

Data is a community asset to be valued and shared.

Not every community leader should have to be a data scientist nor a technology infrastructure specialist. Intelligent communities will find ways to access these high order technology and business skills to turn data into simple insights to use as evidence.

Capacity and capability building within communities to turn digital data into insight, is an area for the levels of government with accountability for community wide development to address.

Provisioning community level data management infrastructure would be a major step forward towards empowering communities to enhance their evidence base for community based decision making.

Data analysis skills combined with easy-to-use technology platforms to gain insight from digital data are prerequisites for transformation to an intelligent community.

Digital shared services provisioned by larger communities including cities, can enable smaller communities and community ecosystems.

Innovation leading to competitive advantage and resilience comes from the insight of community leaders. Governments could be well served by building capacity and capability within communities for this to happen.

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