High-tech neighborhood watch
For some city and county leaders, business intelligence (BI) software is charting the way to revitalizing communities that have suffered from the economy and from urban sprawl. BI software interfaces with geographic information systems (GIS) to create graphic demonstrations of where city services would be best applied to save neighborhoods from decline.
Fifteen years ago, Richardson, Texas, an inner-ring suburb of Dallas, was a popular place to live and work, says Eric Matthews, deputy CIO of application development. But, newer suburbs have become more popular, and officials want to ensure that Richardson remains a desirable place to life.
In 2005, the city began using a BI platform from New York-based Information Builders to improve the performance of departments that are key to that revitalization effort, such as code enforcement. “Only with strong, consistent, repeatable code enforcement do you end up with the kind of community [Richardson] is and continues to be,” Matthews says.
The new software creates reports about the city’s budget, accounting, ambulance use and police officer court date schedules, as well as code enforcement. It then interfaces with the city’s existing GIS to create maps populated with information from the reports. The maps help city officials fine-tune revitalization efforts, for example, by showing patterns of code enforcement officer behavior that are not evident in written data.
Fulton County, Ga., has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country, and the county’s Information Technology Department has been writing custom BI programs to address the problem, says Carl Anderson, the county’s assistant director for GIS, Division for Integration and Business Improvement. “We look at distressed sales, people selling houses at less than the true value, trying to get a sense of where neighborhoods might be at risk,” he says.
The BI software helps city leaders make informed decisions faster about ways to prevent further deterioration. “[BI software] is enabling us to see [problems, such as patterns of predatory lending] quicker than if we wait for a whole extra year for [information from regular sources] to get published and don’t use a BI approach to information,” Anderson says.