We always complain about accountability in the public sector – that they never deliver on their election promises and always try to hoodwink us by massaging the numbers – turning a blind eye to the fact that the same happens in business where once you get beyond financials and regulatory data, few companies maintain a single repository for all the other performance data that really tracks where we’re making progress.
Well in the last few days, the Boston Globe as published an article telling how their citizens can now track everything from how many parking tickets the city hands out monthly, how many potholes it fills right down to whether shootings are on the rise. Just like business, the record-keepers in city hall collect vast amounts of data they use to measure progress and monitor how well various programs and initiatives are doing.
They call it their Boston About Results program with information being accessible through their website and the iPad App for SAP Strategy Management, which they call Citizen Insight, that provide scorecards from across city departments such as police, public works, and schools. Using these, citizens, managers and policy makers can explore more than 200 measurements, about 10 percent of the total measurements the Boston tracks for internal purposes. For instance, it shows there were 456 incidents of violent crime in September, the most recent date that data is available, running above the city’s own projection of 442. The figure also is higher than the 402 incidents logged in September 2011. Take a look yourself by clicking here.
The entire program started off with investment in SAP Strategy Management to improve the city’s back-end data analytics system and several other initiatives in the city to utilize new data analysis tools and mobile technology to improve services. For instance using mobile technology, Boston’s Citizens Connect app lets users report potholes and other problems around town and Public Works employees with smartphones can now to record traffic trouble spots around the city.
At a time when public spending is being squeezed until it squeaks, anything that ensures tax payers’ dollars are spent effectively and holds the decision makers accountable has to be welcome.