Helping cities better understand their residents’ needs
We believe residents are at the heart of every city and that their voices should be taken into account when cities make decisions. We are here to help voices like yours be heard
The Big Picture
We built Zencity to show city leaders the "big picture" of what their community so that the city can better respond to its residents real needs and preferences
With our platform, cities have a measurable, data-driven way to listen to a wide variety of voices in their community and incorporate all of that feedback into its actions including strategic planning, budgeting, policy-making, improving services, and more
With Zencity's platform, cities have a better tool for listening to a wide variety of voices in their community. That being said, our platform only includes, open, publicly-available and city-owned data. Resident privacy is one of our top concerns
What does Zencity do?
Zencity is the game changer that makes sure our voices, as citizens, are heard. We do that by leveraging the existing channels that are already being used by residents to share their comments and feedback. Zencity aggregates all kinds of different opinions, feedback and comments about things happening in your city, and makes sure they actually make it back to city hall. We do that by identifying relevant communication channels where residents might be expressing themselves about their city, and then helping the city process and analyze all of the data in these channels using Artificial Intelligence. The idea is to help the city recognize the meaningful issues and trends shared by the community. Our goal is to show the trends and topics that residents care about the most, as a community.
How is the data analyzed?
We automatically aggregate and anonymize all of the data using cutting-edge Artificial Intelligence technology. We then automatically recognize the main topics and sentiment in the discussion – prioritizing by volume of conversations. We also alert about specific pressing issues if we see that they are trending, meaning lots of people in the community are discussing them.
What kinds of sources are you taking data from?
We only take data that is either completely open and public (meaning everyone can see it with a Google search), or owned by the city (like 311 or city hotline service requests). We look at data from a combination of sources including official city channels such as 311, which is the most natural place for a resident to report a classic complaint, official city-managed Facebook and Twitter pages, and the city’s website. On the non-city-managed side, we also look at data from open, public, social media channels and web sources, like public Facebook groups, Twitter hashtags, and keywords. Zencity doesn’t actually collect this information on any “human” level – it is all automatically collected and filtered by our product.
What are you doing with Facebook?
We acknowledge that there has been a lot of misuse and abuse of data collected from Facebook, and as a company that actually tries to use technology for good, this has been disheartening for us. We believe in the power of data to drive smart governance and to enable cities to make decisions and spend public resources based on what their citizens actually need and want. That’s why we have a very strong ethics code on how we collect and analyze that data: 1. We only collect data from completely open outlets, such as pages and public groups, and keep only the content of the post – not any information about the user posting it. 2. We never look at data from private groups or personal profiles. 3. We never keep or display any user or profile data at any point, or any other personal information. In fact, we always anonymize all of our data. In the case of social media, we always anonymize the user posting and white out any names they may be used or tagged in a comment or post. In the case of incorporating city data (such as 311), we never hold any PIIs in our system at any point.
Do you know where I live or where I’m posting from?
Absolutely not. We look at data based on where it’s being posted on the web not who is posting it or the poster’s geography. We don’t have access to and we don’t look at a user’s profile, city, state, or any other private information. We only collect feedback that’s related to the city and we only collect it from places where we think citizens will be sharing publicly about their city, for example, on public community pages on Facebook, or using specific hashtags or keywords on Twitter, or in public, resident Facebook groups. We don’t care where you’re physically posting from! We just care if you’re providing feedback about something the city should know about – like education, municipal services, taxes, bike-lanes, or anything else – and we’ll only pick up on it if you provided the feedback in a public place where we think residents like you might communicate.
Are social media channels like Facebook and Twitter giving you access to this data?
Absolutely. We are 100% compliant with the terms and conditions of Facebook, Twitter, and any other data source we use, and only work through the official APIs. We only look at public and open data, which we can only see with the access points given by the social media channels themselves.
Who sees this data?
It’s up to our local government clients to decide who in the city can see what data. For more information on who in your city is using the platform and how they’re using it, we recommend being in touch directly with the city. Although all of the data we collect is public data, we never share the data with anyone but your city and it’s up to them to decide what to do with the data and how they want to share it.
What are some things cities have done using the data collected and analyzed by Zencity?
We have some really awesome examples of things cities have done with our product, by better leveraging the voices of residents like you. They range from bridging the gap between disgruntled parents and the local school district, to shifting entire budgets based on resident complaints. We have one city that kept a public park open, instead of re-purposing the land, so that the local Little League team could continue practicing there, and another city that used us for crisis-management when a construction crane collapsed in the heart of downtown. Cities have used us to communicate about ballot measures, understand how to improve a car-sharing service, and engage citizens in addressing homelessness. We have a mayor that uses us to prepare for neighborhood meetups, so that when she shows up, she can actually respond to resident concerns and engage in meaningful discourse. And we have a 311 team that uses us to better-route their requests so that they can respond more quickly and more efficiently to city problems. All in all, Zencity is being used to improve the cities we live in. We get pretty excited about it when we start to list examples, and we hope you do too!
Who owns the data at the end of the day?
At the end of the day, there is some data that is city-owned, such as proprietary data that your city has given us access too – for example, 311 reports. Data that we look at from social media channels is actually owned by the social media channel itself.
Okay, I get it! How can I get involved or better be accounted for in my city’s decision-making processes?
We believe that by allowing your city to really understand what the most pressing needs are in your community, the city will be able to prioritize and optimize the services they provide and spend public resources more efficiently. Ultimately, we want to increase your city’s accountability to you, their resident and tax payer, because if a city isn’t serving its residents, then something needs to change.
Still have questions?
Wish your city was on board and actually making decisions based on your voice? We’re happy to help out!