Sugar Land works toward data-driven government certification

The City of Sugar Land is pursuing a certification that will improve how it uses data to make citywide decisions. 

The What Works Cities certification recognizes and celebrates local governments for their exceptional use of data to inform policy decisions, allocate funding, equitably improve services, evaluate the effectiveness of the City’s programs, and engage residents, according to its website. The goal of the What Works Cities certification is to learn how to better utilize the data we are already collecting in order to make better decisions to improve the lives of residents.

The certification would confirm that Sugar Land recognizes the importance of meeting data foundation requirements to expand pockets of excellence throughout the city. Other cities with the certification include Arlington, TX, Austin, TX and Scottsdale, AZ. Approximately 60 cities across the U.S. and Latin America are certified.

“This process really promotes transparency and accountability,” Tammy Corb, a member of the What Works Cities team, said. “Effective data management turns into data analytics that we can use to create support for our operations and make better decisions across the organization.” 

Thousands of data points are generated across the City each day from information related to permits issued, police and fire incidents and purchases made by City departments. The process of earning this certification will make for smarter and more efficient city services.

The City has reallocated employees to lead this initiative. The four-person team, led by Chief Data Officer Kylie Jackson, is focused on increasing transparency and accountability across the organization and implementing processes to help transition the organization to data-driven decision making. Tasks include conducting a full data inventory, introducing data governance practices, creating an open data portal, revamping performance management features, and training City staff on how to use data analytics.

“I am excited to be leading the team working on this certification process because I truly believe that the practices learned from this experience will allow the City to become a more efficient organization,” Jackson said. “While there’s only four people on our team, working on this initiative full-time truly involves the entire city. Data is a hugely important asset to the organization, and we must put into place the foundation necessary to fully use it to its potential.”

This certification will empower Sugar Land to stay ahead of the curve and point us to areas for improvement. Part of the certification requires cities to launch a public Open Data Portal, which Corb says will help residents see the efficiencies and trends the City is working with to solve problems.

“The What Works Cities initiative will help us streamline our services to ensure that residents are getting the best service we can offer,” Corb said. “The data will be able to tell us whether we are being impactful or not.” 

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