How Data Became Part of New Orleans’ DNA during the Katrina Recovery

Data intermediaries have a symbiotic relationship with government as the source of most of their information. The open-data movement in government and development of software-as-a-service technologies shaped the data landscape after Katrina. Through relationships and talent transfers with The Data Center, the City of New Orleans went from having its chief technology officer in federal prison and its data systems in shambles to being a nationally recognized leader in open and accountable government. To be effective during disasters, an intermediary should be (1) in place and widely respected before the event, (2) ready to respond immediately after the event and for the long recovery, and (3) continually scanning the horizon for changes in data and technology

Recommended Citation: Gardere, Lamar; Plyer, Allison; and Ross, Denice (2020) “How Data Became Part of New Orleans’ DNA during the Katrina Recovery,” New England Journal of Public Policy: Vol. 32 : Iss. 1, Article 21.

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Towards a Deliberate Practice of Public Interest Tech

After nearly twenty years in the field, I’ve learned that if public interest tech doesn’t start out personal, it eventually becomes so. After Hurricane Katrina, as I negotiated with Louisiana state government for access to their childcare database, I was also patching together itinerant care for my own children, since 80% of childcare centers in New Orleans were shuttered. As we compiled data to support the various community planning processes, an illegally placed fast food restaurant popped up across the street from our home. And, while my organization was trying to figure out the storm’s final death tally, I read in the New York Times that our pediatrician had died by his own hand; I had to wonder, should suicide three months later count in that tally?

Read more of this article at New America.