Talk about a cool job – managing your city’s data! It would be even better if the city was a metropolitan hub like Chicago. The Economist recently sneaked a peek at how its chief information officer stays busy. The really interesting aspect of the job is what happens when it’s done. The CIO can dump huge caches of open data. Then the eager computing public can aggregate and sort the information in whatever way they want. The creativity is only limited by the citizenry. This is part of the rise of Big Data that perhaps not many pundits forecasted. They were too preoccupied with dark visions of a mass surveillance society. But here we have the rise of the analytics honcho, a well-paying and hip-sounding job.
Chicago is apparently sharing restaurant inspector grades so as to merge them into restaurant directories. This is a valuable service, no doubt. The future is going to be exponentially more ambitious. Most fascinating will be how the collaboration between CIO and citizen data crunchers evolves. Right now, the data is superabundant. There’s so much of it, in fact, that the city needs this sort of grassroots help. Down the road, however, technology will find a way to tame the data. At that point the relationship between governor and governed might change. It might change because of the data. Even more far reaching, data sharing might change the very nature of governance.
So, this is where futurists should be looking. They ought to watch closely when new services are set up to make snowplows run more on schedule. It may seem insignificant on the face of it, but improving decision-making using a mix of big data, crowd computing, and open source savvy will transform many an urban landscape in the years to come.