This content was originally written by Stefaan G. Verhulst, Andrew Young, and Andrew J. Zahuranec of New York University’s The Governance Lab and published in The Circular City Research Journal Vol 1., edited by André Corrêa d’Almeida. It has been edited for length.

The City of New York is the result of and depends on a vibrant economy. As with other cities, the City’s lifeblood is its employment base and economic activity. Without a vibrant economy and jobs that provide economic security, current residents will leave and future residents will be discouraged from moving to the city. The public services provided by the city are only feasible by taxing the economic activities of its citizens and businesses, who in turn benefit from those services being delivered.

New York is thriving, based on some metrics. Unemployment is low, according to the New York State Department of Labor in 2019, and job creation is up. Major technology companies see the City as an attractive location to base their operations. Still, serious difficulties remain.

Old industries are in transition. Neighborhoods are changing. Long-established businesses and residents find it increasingly difficult to stay afloat amid an influx of new arrivals and increased property prices. Finding ways to increase economic activity, generate new jobs, and prevent economic inequality is thus essential for any actor within city government and for the well-being of any NYC resident or visitor.

Open Data Periodic Table by The GovLab, NYU, which focuses on enablers, challenges, and risks related to uses of open government data. Through The Circular City, researchers identified that the majority of factors that are instrumental for open government data use cases also play important roles in the circular data context.

This paper explores whether and how “circular data”— the collection, production, and exchange of data, and business insights, between a series of urban collaborators around a shared set of inquiries — can help economic development by empowering both government actors, as well as the local business community. Specifically, the value of circular data for economic development is approached along five vectors: Situational Analysis, Cause-and-Effect Analysis, Prediction, Impact & Value Assessment, and Ecosystem Support.

Research includes interviews with representatives from the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) as well as from New York City government agencies like the Department of Small Business Services, Department of Consumer Affairs, and Department of Buildings. Specifically, research examines how data about New York City (and specifically Downtown Brooklyn) generated from three startups participating in Newlab’s The Circular City program — CARMERANumina, and Citiesense  — can help the City achieve its economic development priorities while providing new business opportunities to increase revenue and market share, optimize existing processes, or launch new products and services. Specific use cases explored include the following key value propositions:

• Managing traffic congestion for commuters and business deliveries
• Valuation of properties via electronic proposals
• Tracking the relationship between how public spaces are managed and the presence of accidents or malicious behavior
• Predicting the impact of disaster and catastrophic events
• Improving the likelihood of businesses to thrive in a given neighborhood and to reach target audiences with their marketing efforts
• Measuring the impact of investments in specific neighborhoods on economic development objectives
• Estimating the impact of construction on local businesses

Continue reading about the role of circular data for urban economic development in The Circular City Research Journal.