Data promises to be for the twenty-first century what steam power was for the eighteenth, electricity for the nineteenth, and fossil fuels for twentieth – that is, the creator of enormous wealth and progress. For both cities and counties, the era of Big Data opens up significant new opportunities for economic growth and new insight.

Driving these opportunities is the simple fact that the old model of tax and consumption will no longer fuel what is needed for economies around the world. Creating attractive and competitive business environments is key to the success of businesses, cities, regions, and nations. Whether a mature or emerging economy, locations that can create positive business environments will benefit from increased economic growth, job creation, and prosperity.

 Here are some questions to consider:

  • What makes a city or county a compelling place to live, work, and do business?
  • What makes a business want to relocate, stay, expand or grow in an area?
  • What is the right balance of initiatives to achieve citizen satisfaction and sustained competitive advantage in the marketplace?

Given the economic environment, today’s government leaders recognize these questions as familiar and challenging for good reason: our society is not getting simpler. It is getting more complex: more people, more communication, more competition.

This brings new opportunities for technology-enabled improvement that constitute a paradigm shift in economic development. From how we manage infrastructure and utilities, to how education, health, and social services are delivered to better meet the needs of citizens and business, we are witnessing a dramatic shift in how economic development can be achieved. Ushered in by a convergence of technologies that use the power of data, we are now able to improve locations in a smarter way.

Here are a few examples:

  • In Minneapolis, city officials are tracking more than 1,250 metrics and key performance indicators to help ensure it is on pace with its goals and the expectations of citizens. From repairing potholes on city streets, to improving transit systems, expediting snow removal, or ensuring a safer city, using big data and analytics are at the foundation of the city’s strategy for improving efficacy and efficiency of its operations.
  • Miami-Dade County is harnessing data among the 35 municipalities within the county to improve services for residents and help agencies share information.
  • In Georgia, Gwinnett County Public Schools monitor and analyze student performance, spotting at-risk students and intervening proactively with corrective action. Technology not only provides teachers with more actionable and insightful information about their students’ learning needs as well as their own teaching strengths, but gives students the tools needed to succeed outside school walls, helping to better link curricula with employers’ needs, a true measure of economic development.
  • The city of Dubuque combines smart meters and powerful analytics and gives its citizens the insights they need to adjust their energy and water consumption, with results—such as up to an 11 percent reduction in electricity usage and a 7 percent reduction in water usage—to show for it.

Cities and counties that manage to create attractive and competitive business environments stand to gain tremendously from increased economic growth, job creation, and prosperity. And the price to pay for failing to address weaknesses has also increased. The future global economy will have a clear demarcation between winners and losers.

The dominant cities, counties, regions and countries around the world today are planning for long-term growth to build their economic competitive advantage. And they will do this by collaborating across levels of providers, convening stakeholders inside and outside of healthcare and government, and working across political, social, and technological divides to achieve bigger, better, and more sustainable outcomes in health and quality of life.

In business, successful companies are those that can maintain long-term, sustained competitive advantage. Shouldn’t the public sector be thinking the same way?



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