Doing What Works: Governing in the Age of Big Data

Published date01 September 2014
Date01 September 2014
Martin O’Malley is serving the people
of Maryland in his second term as governor
and has served two terms as chair of the
Democratic Governors Association. From
1999 through 2007, he served as mayor
of the City of Baltimore, where his policies
helped achieve the greatest crime reduction
among America’s largest cities. Governor
O’Malley received his bachelor’s degree
from Catholic University and his law degree
from the University of Maryland.
Doing What Works: Governing in the Age of Big Data 555
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 74, Iss. 5, pp. 555–556. © 2014 by
The American Society for Public Administration.
DOI: 10.1111/puar.12260.
Published 2014. This article is a
US Government work and is in the
public domain in the USA.
Martin O’Malley
Governor of Maryland
Big Data is forever changing the way we
manage, market, and move information. In
Maryland, it is also changing the way we
govern—with better choices and for better results.
When I was elected mayor of Baltimore in 1999, the
city had become the most addicted and violent in
America. So we looked at some of the newest success
stories that were coming from our friends up north in
New York.
New York was in the headlines for driving down crime
rates with a system called CompStat. It was among the
f‌i rst municipal governments to collect timely, accurate
information, shared by all, which was used to rapidly
deploy resources, develop ef‌f ective tactics and strate-
gies, and follow up relentlessly.
We borrowed their best ideas in public safety and
implemented them in Baltimore—and we kept at
it, year after year. From 2000 to 2009, we went on
to achieve the biggest reductions in Part 1 crime of
any major city in America. But at the same time, we
thought, why should an innovation like this only apply
to one type of city service?  e old way of thinking
across city government was to focus on inputs: how
much money or which resources could we scrape
together to throw at any given problem.  is way of
thinking made too many people in government con-
tent with calling nearly every problem a budgetary one.
So we expanded our new performance measurement
system enterprise-wide and called it CitiStat. We
made it the new way of driving every department and
agency. And then we started using mapping, adding
geographic information systems (GIS) for a bird’s-eye
view of each independent action and city service.
Soon it became easy to f‌i nd natural collaborations,
missed connections, and new opportunities for
progress and growth.
en, to centralize all the requests we got from
citizens every day on the front end, we borrowed
from Chicago—establishing 311, a simple phone
number for citizens to call for any and all city services.
Just as 911 allows the police to respond and deploy to
public safety emergencies, 311 gave us the ability to
better respond to every other customer service request.
Hit a pothole? Call 311. Give us the location, and
my administration guarantees a crew will f‌i x it within
48 hours. Illegal dumping in your neighborhood?
Give us the address.  is is our grid, every block of it.
We’ll f‌i x it, we’ll tell you when, and you can hold us
accountable to the commitment.
is approach brought about a sea change in
Suddenly, we could tackle municipal challenges like
trash in the streets, crime, homelessness, or lead
poisoning in children with accountability, with
measurable approaches. We publicly identif‌i ed our
problems and crowdsourced the solutions with open
access to data.
Over time we developed better solutions.
With this rapid collection and sharing of data, we
were able to shift from an input-centric approach to
an approach that measured outputs and outcomes.
We set public goals, relentlessly measuring govern-
ment performance on a weekly basis, broadly sharing
information, and putting our results on the Internet
for all to see.
Most important, we moved away from ideological,
hierarchical, bureaucratic governing, and we moved
toward information age governing—an administrative
approach that is fundamentally entrepreneurial,
collaborative, interactive, and performance driven.
We moved away from a spoils-based system of
patronage politics to a results-based system of
performance politics.
Baltimore was the f‌i rst, but not the last. Today, of the
25 most populous cities in America, all but two use a
Doing What Works: Governing in the Age of Big Data

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