Its been just seven weeks since Abhi Nemani joined Los Angeles as its first chief data officer, but he’s already instituting a number of projects that will change how the city uses information. He has also laid out a vision to create an army of “amateur data scientists” among government workers.
In an interview with StateScoop, Nemani, the former co-executive director at Code for America, said the city is working on three major components of data right now as Mayor Eric Garcetti has pushed the city’s open data efforts since coming to office.
The main projects include:
- Putting data to work inside the city’s government. The Los Angeles Police Department has been seen as a trailblazer in the analytics space because of its use of CompStat, a crime statistics analytics tool. Nemani is helping to spread that mindset to the city’s other major departments and agencies to help them find ways public information can make them more effective. “We’re looking at how data can change how the city is working and our history with the LAPD has already shown we can do that,” Nemani said.
- Another big project centers on opening up even more reservoirs of public information. The city has begun expanding the availability government data with the creation of its open data portal, but Nemani wants to be more aggressive in the amount of data sets that are released. At the same time, he wants information released in a way that gets people to use it.
- Nemani also wants to focus more on regional collaboration and data sharing with the city’s immediate neighbors, including Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populated county by a wide margin. “Data shouldn’t have any jurisdiction,” Nemani said.
Nemani is in an interesting position these days. He is one of a growing number of state or local chief data officers, a position that has taken on a higher profile with the explosion of real-time information in the private and public sectors.
His position at Code for America, where he worked with cities to help create open platforms for accessing public information, has placed him at an interesting crossroads.
“It’s a small club, but its growing,” Nemani said. “What we want to do is find ways where we can work together to get results instead of just talking about things at a higher level. We want to work a lot on data standards that can show the ROI localities can get on opening up their data.”
Nemani plans to work on an interesting project during his time as CDO: With the explosion in information access, government employees who haven’t had to handle lots of data before are suddenly having it put into their hands. Nemani wants to increase the education and training available to government workers to create an army of “amateur data scientists.”
“Its great that data is becoming more open, but we need to increase the data literacy of people and get them comfortable with doing analytics, create data sets and really harnessing it,” Nemani said. “We’ve seen an explosion right now in open data tools that if taught to employees in a way that they can harness and see results from will help increase our efforts.”