The Big Picture for 311 Data

Steven Johnson examines how officials in New York and other cities can leverage information collected from public call centers to build better cities.
November 5, 2010, 5am PDT | Lynn Vande Stouwe
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With over 100 million calls to 311 logged in New York, the city has a rich source of data on problems ranging from potholes to graffiti to noise complaints, writes Johnson. While New York has used this data to rapidly respond to incidents like food-borne illness at restaurants or 2009's Maple Syrup Mystery, Johnson argues that making more 311 data available to the public would allow for further analysis and efficiency in problem solving. Projects like Open311 are already fostering similar innovations in cities like San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

However, there are limits to power of the ‘crowdsourced metropolis,' writes Johnson:

"Startups can build applications far more quickly and cheaply than a public agency can, but the city still needs to think fast enough to ask for them-and to integrate them into the way municipalities run While any enterprising developer can build an app for reporting potholes, even the most well-funded company can't go out and repair them."

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Published on Monday, November 1, 2010 in Wired
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