Data in the District: Washington unveils 'The Lab' for city solutions
- Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser recently announced a new data initiative, The Lab @ DC, to help develop solutions to city problems, as reported by WAMU. The Lab is made up of a dozen researchers and data scientist that are located in the Office of the City Administrator’s Office of Performance Management (OPM), but work with multiple city agencies.
- The Texas-based Laura and John Arnold Foundation funded the initiative, which paid for similar projects in Houston, Michigan and Rhode Island. The D.C. lab is the first to be embedded within a government.
- Researchers are working on over a dozen projects that look into everything from rodent abatement to body cameras for police.
The Lab is funded through 2018 and dovetails with D.C.'s new "open by default" data policy. Many cities have open data initiatives but putting them to use is harder, with data scientists and experts needed to parse the data. Some initiatives, Like Bloomberg Philanthropies What Work Cities helps cities make data-driven decisions.
But The Lab and Bloomberg aren't the only games in town. Companies like CityBase and Appallicious are trying to build software solutions for cities that also have a citizen-facing side. There's a strong desire in cities to make use of data to solve problems — ranging from cleaning litter off streets to driving citizen engagement.
D.C. is already a leader in smart and sustainable projects, and The Lab could help continue that trend. The city is spending billions on improving their green infrastructure and building miles of tunnels to hold combined sewer overflow. There are plans to bring in smart streetlights and the Pennsylvania Avenue 2040 project, which will add in IoT devices along Pennsylvania Avenue that are meant for visitors, residents and office workers.