Cities face both opportunities and challenges in relation to data. Well-managed data can help to improve service delivery, optimize resource allocation, and drive innovation. On the other hand, concerns about privacy and transparency hold particular weight in the public arena, driving data governance in municipalities.

Municipalities collect massive amounts of data in numerous formats and from many sources, ranging from court documents to traffic sensors. Data governance efforts manage data quality and availability to support decision making. Those efforts must also prioritize data security and privacy to satisfy regulatory requirements and safeguard public trust.

To that end, the city’s data governance framework determines the responsibilities, processes and tools that determine how data is managed and used. Understanding both the opportunities and challenges at play will help to guide data strategy.

Unique Data Challenges

Like any organization, municipalities need quality data to produce quality outcomes. Incomplete, outdated, or incorrect data will result in poor decisions. And data silos created by lack of communication among departments reduces data value. In addition to these general challenges, municipalities must deal with concerns unique to the public environment.

Because they answer to the public, governments must emphasize transparency. This sometimes means balancing the benefits of innovation against public concerns. For example, San Diego met opposition to a proposed project that included smart sensors in traffic lights. Critics objected to the plan, noting police access to sensor data, and viewing it as surveillance.

Municipalities must also be prepared to respond to public records requests. Inefficient data management creates bottlenecks in fulfilling these requests, creating frustration, and exacting a high price tag. Limited budgets and personnel only add to the problem.

On the other hand, laws like New Jersey’s Daniel’s Law highlight the fact that public records in the wrong hands can cause harm. By limiting the exposure of personal information, the law aims to prevent the harassment of public servants and their families. Daniel’s Law seeks to strike a balance between the need for accountability and the desire for protection.

Data Governance in Municipalities

Data Governance in Municipalities Improves Decision Making

When municipal governments prioritize data governance, they improve decision making and reduce data silos. They find it easier to balance transparency with privacy and regulatory concerns. And when data governance includes effective eDiscovery tools, they eliminate bottlenecks in responding to public records requests.

Additionally, effective data governance makes it possible for municipalities to leverage new technologies and opportunities that rely on data. For instance, smart city initiatives might harness data from traffic sensors to improve emergency services. Or city planners might analyze traffic patterns to improve urban design.

Building an Effective Data Governance Strategy

With a proactive approach to data governance, municipalities drive innovation while addressing issues of transparency and regulatory compliance. Effective data governance begins with assessing the current data environment, including data sources and processes, and identifying opportunities for improvement.

Next, the agency needs to establish roles and responsibilities related to data. This includes identifying data stewards as well as data consumers. It also involves assigning accountability for data quality, security and compliance.

Data Governance in Municipalities

With roles and responsibilities in place, stakeholders can determine policies and procedures to guide data collection, storage, processing, sharing and disposal. Choosing and implementing the right data governance tools and technologies will simplify and automate many data governance activities. This includes classifying and securing data, as well as managing data lifecycles.

Any successful data governance strategy involves ongoing monitoring. Municipalities should evaluate data governance performance against data quality, security, and compliance objectives. Additionally, as regulatory requirements, technologies, data sources and agency goals evolve, data strategies will need to keep pace.

Partner with Municipal Data Governance Experts

Whether your agency needs a fully managed data governance solution, assistance with eDiscovery or regulatory compliance, Messaging Architects can help. We bring proven tools and deep experience in the municipal space.

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