Contributor Kryssia Campos/Contributor

The Data-Driven City

One of the most significant innovations in urban planning is the embrace of "open data": user-generated information that can provide valuable insights into how people use cities. If shared and analyzed properly, these nuggets of digital detail can be a real-time blueprint for solving cities' most pressing challenges.

SAN JOSÉ – When you look at your phone or tablet, what do you see? Pixels? Pictures? Digital distraction? I see data.

Every day, we generate enormous amounts of information, a binary trail of breadcrumbs that forms a map of our interests, habits, and interactions. For those of us in the business of urban planning, these disparate datasets represent a goldmine of opportunity. If harnessed properly, user-generated data can help planners build cities that are more in tune with people’s actual needs.

There is just one problem: the world is literally drowning in data. To make use of all the information that people involuntarily produce, planners must improve how data is captured, analyzed, and shared between the public and private sectors. If we succeed, some of the biggest obstacles that the world faces – from poverty to climate change – could become a bit more manageable.

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