South Bend Aims To Improve City Services With Data Tech

Nov 10, 2016

South Bend will join a national coalition of cities working to use data and technology to improve public spending and services.

Bloomberg Philanthropies started the “What Works Cities” initiative last year. Now it’s more than halfway to helping 100 mid-sized cities use data to streamline how they serve and govern residents.

South Bend is one of the smallest cities in the program, with a population of around 100,000 people.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg often says they have big-city problems with small-town flexibility. He says data analysis can help South Bend improve the performance of city services, especially utilities.

“Maybe your water usage tells us that you have an issue with a leak or even a financial issue. … Can we send more resources your way now that we know that?” he says. “It’s ideas like that, that I think have a lot of promise but haven’t really been fleshed out in a community our size.”

As part of the program, he says South Bend will also work with behavioral economists to see if changing basic aspects of those services, such as default settings, can help residents and the city save money.

There are now What Works Cities in 33 states. South Bend is Indiana’s only one, so far.