City data initiatives should be packaged with greater university collaboration, says City Councilman Jim Kenney, and the framework for such work has already been established.
“If I was the mayor of the city — and we’ve started this process with Temple — I would partner with every university in the area to develop a work study component so that higher-level students would work in the government and get credit for that toward their degree,” Kenney told Technically Philly last month.
An expansive internship-style program would work well for important but less immediately timely city priorities, like releasing city data, which Kenney says is ‘maybe a five’ on a scale of 10 in priorities, when compared with crime prevention, education, job creation and the like.
The Division of Technology, which, according to City CTO Tommy Jones is stretched thin in capacity, could work with university computer and information science programs to develop strategies and move forward projects, Kenney says. That would make the release, organization and actioning of city data more possible, said the at-large councilman. The release of city data and information is a major part of the Digital Philadelphia plan put forth by the DOT.
While data generally is something easy to support, Kenney does note his caution around health care records not properly redacted and any other information that could reveal personal issues or details.
“I’m not in favor of crime stats, though, in that way,” he said, allowing that the Police Department does share some in limited ways. “I wouldn’t want to stigmatize any neighborhood in a way that could mean there’s less investment.”
“So we’ll go to Drexel and take their — what I’m going to lovingly call — ‘geeks’ and say ‘What are you doing? Do you want to work on this, or does this interest you for making the city work better?” says Kenney, who adds that in a plan like this, the students wouldn’t be paid but would receive college credit. “They’d learn something about challenges in big city government, and we’d benefit from their insight and new skills.”
Kenney’s office is currently helping to organize something similar around human services and social work programs at Penn and Temple, the South Philly native said.
“Ten to 15 of their students are getting into the world to work to come partner with our folks here and take some help of the case load and bring their cutting edge training in exchange for credit and learning something from our seasoned people,” Kenney said. “Now that’s a model of something to expand.”
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