City of San Antonio takes closer look at how it collects, uses data

City finds internet access one of many things families lack

SAN ANTONIO – Every year, the city of San Antonio collects information through surveys.

They determine the structure of the city’s budget and the allocation of things, like health care services.

As many cities talk about ways to improve equity across all communities, San Antonio is taking a closer look at how it collects and uses that data.

“When we use data to make decisions at the city to build policy, to decide how we’re gonna allocate important funding for programs, all of that is determined by the data that we have access to. And if that data is biased, then we make biased decisions,” said Emily Royall, Smart City Coordinator for the City of San Antonio Office of Innovation.

Recently, panel discussions were held to look deeper into local surveys.

“This started as a conversation between our office, Office of Innovation and MetroHealth. Really focusing on how we can eliminate or reduce bias in data driven decision making,” Royall said.

Data-driven decision making refers to making policy or programming decisions based on data that’s collected from the public.

Royall said early on in the pandemic, the city found internet access was one of many things families were lacking.

“That made it really hard to gather information about them digitally. So we had to start going door to door to make sure that people had access to really important information about testing, about testing locations and that they had the most up to date information about COVID 19,” Royall said.

Jamie Gould, a mother of three, relies heavily on mobile hotspot devices that Southside ISD gave them, but they’re not always reliable.

“My kids are missing assignments. They’re missing lessons,” Gould said.

“It’s difficult because when it kicks us out, we don’t know what they’re trying to teach us and we don’t know what they’re saying,” said Joseph Gould, Jamie’s son.

Lack of internet access is just one of many disparities surveys can uncover.

Royall said they’ve also discovered the language used in surveys can be too formal and intimidating for some people to fill out.

The city also learned it needs to provide surveys in more languages other than just English and Spanish.

The city is looking for feedback on the way it collects data.

To participate, click here.

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