By Dr. David Sinclair
What skills will tomorrow’s city leaders need?
This is a very broad question, but it has a specific set of answers. Tomorrow’s urban leaders must organize, analyze and understand the resource that is Big Data. They will need to be able to use the sea of data pouring into their systems to predict how the city will operate and then build adaptable and informed plans to deal with the inevitable disruption and change. This set of skills fall under the heading of data analytics.
It is with these skills in mind that we have designed a Data Analytics Master’s programme at Dublin City University in partnership with IBM Research Dublin. The goal of the programme is to provide future planners with a deep understanding of the issues, as well as the techniques and tools needed to explore large amounts of raw data and extract meaningful conclusions from it. With such a skill set, tomorrows’ urban leaders will be positioned to build smarter, sustainable cities.
To say that we are drowning in information is a cliché, but it is true is that much of what is collected overwhelms, rather than supports. In this flood of raw data, there are gems of knowledge that can be used to improve processes, give new insights and generate value.
In order to achieve their many goals, urban leaders will need extensive input. Technically, this is not an issue, given the network sensors that monitor most modern cities and the amount of data generated daily by citizens themselves. The big challenge is to manage and make sense of the data, once collected.
For example, while an individual has only to find the quickest route to work each morning, urban leaders and planners must sift through and analyze growing volumes of data to optimize travel for all; to encourage greater use of public transportation; and to provide alternative routing to help citizens get around construction and other obstacles that can cause delays.
Because cities are in constant flux and transformation, it is important to learn from the successes and mistakes of initiatives directly. The Master’s in Data Analytics curriculum at DCU will borrow on our longstanding partnership with IBM and will use a variety of exclusive resources, including access to tangible, real-world IBM case studies from their thousands of engagements with cities around the world.
The head of the coming tsunami of data is rising up around cities and demanding new skills, and a passion for using these skills to improve our cities. At DCU we pride ourselves in offering students access to both. The success of our cities depends on programs like these and the continued collaboration between academia and industry.
Follow Dublin City University on twitter @DublinCityUni and on Facebook.