Policy Exchange said bringing together both public and private data could create smarter and more productive cities.
Directly elected mayors are being created to lead city combined authorities under a series of city localisation pacts between Whitehall and local government.
Today’s Smart Devolution report found this creates an opportunity to unlock the vast quantity of data help in cities, which could be used to optimise transport routes, support businesses growth and even prevent cycling accidents.
Report author Eddie Copeland recommended that UK cities replicate New York by employing a small team of data experts to collect and collate information from a range of sources, including councils, emergency services, voluntary organisations and mobile phone networks.
“Data will be fundamental to the success of city devolution and smarter cities. Yet most cities lack the ability to join up, analyse and act upon the vast quantities of data they already have,” he said.
“Devolution provides city mayors with a great opportunity to break down the data silos that exist between different local authorities and public sector bodies. With 80% of Brits residing in urban areas and the population of our cities ever increasing, it is vital that our cities become smarter to cope with growing pressures on public services, transport and housing.”
Policy areas where data could be used include road safety, where heavy goods vehicles should be required to share their GPS data with the city mayor’s Office for Data Analytics. Combining this information with data from cyclists obtained by their mobile phone signals could provide real time information showing the most common routes shared by large lorries and cyclists, which could then be used to both prioritise spending and share as real time information.
Mayors could provide data showing where visitors to the city come from and how much they spend, which would enable cities to focus their advertising in regions where the highest paying tourists visit.