Sarah Barns

Essays and other writing

Recent news and views across urban data strategy, creative programming and digital place-making. 

When Two Worlds Collide: Data Strategy and Strategic Planning for 'Smart Governance'

The rise of the data economy and support for ‘government as platform’ models of digital governance have seen growing appetite among city governments to invest in public-facing dashboards, which use open data channels to promote greater transparency in the monitoring a city’s well-being and functional performance. Well known examples include the London Data Store, the Dublin Dashboard and the NYC Open Data. 

As the dashboard model grows traction and is embraced by Australian governments, this paper reflects on the institutional design of city dashboards, as they cut across the worlds of ICT policy and strategic urban planning. Based on recent case study research across Sydney, London and New York, this presentation compares a series of dashboard examples with a view to understanding the relationship between data-driven discovery programs, open data release channels or platforms, and the mechanisms of city performance management and strategic planning. In particular, it addresses the ‘back end’ support programs that support data discovery and harvesting; the challenges of persistent ‘data shadows’; and the forums needed to support alignment between data discovery, citizen engagement and strategic planning. 

The analysis highlights the need to address the rise of city dashboards not simply as end products, but as more open-ended processes through which decision-makers, researchers and urbanists and technologists can seek to test the potential for data-driven methodologies to guide responses to contemporary city challenges.

This paper will be published in the forthcoming Special Issue of City, Culture and Society (Elsevier) on ‘Smart Cities and Urban Innovation’. 

In the meantime, slides from a paper presentation can be viewed below.