Los Angeles (LA) is one of the most populous, diverse, and sprawling urban cities in the world. Until recently, LA city government was notoriously bureaucratic, technologically underdeveloped, and incredibly inefficient when dealing with the growing pains presented by a rapidly growing population base that now numbers over 4 million. The more than 20 departments that comprise LA city government remained largely siloed from one another and lacked the technological infrastructure to easily access or share data with one another, ultimately harming the ability of public officials to efficiently serve the needs of its citizens .
These government inefficiencies have created a trifecta of problems specific to LA:
1) Traffic congestion and accidents: The number of people killed in traffic accidents in LA soared 43 percent from 2015 to last year, and LA drivers spent 104 hours each driving during peak travel periods last year, the most hours of any city globally. 
2) Public safety: Violent crime increased in LA for the third straight year due to greater gang violence. 
3) Homelessness: The homeless population grew over 23% from last year and now numbers approximately 58,000. 
Empowered by a forward-thinking mayor, LA has rapidly embraced technological innovation to begin addressing the problems outlined above through GeoHub, an ambitious map-based open data portal designed to improve cross-departmental collaboration, promote data-driven decision making, and provide efficient delivery of services to city residents . Integrated across departments, GeoHub creates interactive maps that are modified in real-time using data such as traffic patterns, energy consumption, ongoing construction projects in specific neighborhoods, etc.
Ultimately, the GeoHub technology platform aims to address inefficiencies between the government’s main stakeholders – public officials and city residents – by better predicting the needs of residents and then having city employees more efficiently address those needs. The open architecture of the system also acts as a feedback mechanism in which residents themselves can input data on GeoHub, such as when they observe a pothole on their street that needs fixing.
In the short-term, LA hopes to use GeoHub to address traffic concerns in the city through its first two applications:
1) StreetWize: Pulls datasets from planning departments to map various capital and construction projects happening in each neighborhood. Government departments can better coordinate project timelines to avoid having work projects congested in one area which would create too much traffic while community residents can know what’s happening on their street .
2) “Vision Zero High Injury Network,” a map that shows where the city’s pedestrian fatalities occur and how the city plans to reduce them.
In the medium-term, government officials hope to address its other main concerns by developing applications focused on crime and homelessness. Future plans include developing a “predictive policing” application on GeoHub in which patrol officers receive digital maps of today’s “crime forecast” that show areas of high crime . Another application will track movement patterns of the city’s homeless population to inform decision-making around where to build shelters. In the long-term, the city hopes to integrate GeoHub with Internet-of-Things connected devices, such as energy-use monitoring devices or road traffic sensors which can transmit data directly back into the GeoHub platform in real-time .
In my opinion, I think LA city government should continue to enhance its IT infrastructure to better address its traffic, safety, and homeless concerns. It can do so further by partnering with outside non-profit organizations to integrate their datasets within GeoHub. For example, GeoHub could partner with the LA LGBT center to understand where the largest proportions of the LGBT homeless population are living in the city to better deliver medical services and HIV testing in a more targeted fashion. It can also partner with the U.S. Geological Survey to import earthquake data into GeoHub, which can inform city officials on where to invest in building better infrastructure to prevent people from losing their homes in the event of an earthquake.
In the medium term, I also think LA can move into partnerships with private corporations, which may be more difficult given the proprietary nature of private companies’ data sets. Already, Southern California Edison has expressed interest in working with GeoHub to provide data on energy consumption in the city, helping inform government officials on where to focus renewable energy efforts.
However, an open data system, particularly within city government, poses huge safety risks. Is it dangerous to have publicly accessible data, especially given our current political climate that is rife with cyberattacks? Also, as residents learn to use the platform more consistently, will the government be able to afford to keep pace with addressing their needs more efficiently?
These questions aside, demand for greater transparency, efficiency, and cost-effective services have compelled LA city government to invest in technology and big data to more effectively serve its growing population base .
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