Dennis Linders (Local Government)

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As a CountyStat Analyst in the Office of the Montgomery County Executive and a PhD candidate at the University of Maryland, I help public administrators use data to solve problems and deliver results for residents. This work builds from two formative experiences earlier in my career: working on IT strategies with federal agencies at the start of the Obama administration’s Open Data Initiative and then studying the emergence of “smart city” innovations at the World Bank, as leading cities began to leverage data from sensors, connected citizens, and “big data” information systems to help make smarter decisions.

My experience of working with cities across the world at the World Bank led to a new appreciation for local government—and an awareness that, in this time of partisan gridlock, government innovation increasingly takes place at the local level. This led me to Montgomery County, where data informs everything that we do. For instance, to promote accountability, we annually assess the performance of all County departments through over 400 data-driven performance measures shared via online dashboards. To ensure customer service excellence, we use open data on citizen service requests to track the responsiveness of County departments in real-time.

Importantly, we also use data as a platform for collaborative problem solving. For instance, the CountyStat team mapped out pedestrian collisions to identify hotspots and target the activities of engineers, police officers, and public information officers; assessed community data to identify demand for English language training and potential gaps in coverage across 25+ service providers; and translated troves of community and government databases into actionable insights to help shape the County’s upcoming senior strategy in partnership with a dozen County departments and a multitude of community partners.

More and more local governments, regionally and nationally, are similarly recognizing the power of data and implementing data-driven programs like CountyStat. Together, we are jointly giving rise to a new profession within public administration—the “government data scientist”—as we use data and analytics to tackle public problems and improve the performance of government.

Dennis can be contacted at dlinders@umd.edu and dennislinders.com. He also invites you to read his “smart city” chapter in the recently published World Bank – World Development Report 2016, available at bit.ly/wdr-smartcities.

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