How data will drive cities of the future and why San Francisco needs to pay attention

By Bob Linscheid and Rick Hutley

thumbnail_Forecast-SF_transpRecent studies have proclaimed San Francisco as the top city in the nation for economic potential and for creating and sustaining jobs. Check out the numbers:

San Francisco has added 105,000 jobs since 2009, bringing the total workforce to 650,000. The unemployment rate of 3.4 percent is the lowest since 2000, and The City’s population is expected to grow by 10,000 people a year for at least the next few years. Look at all those cranes!

We know much of the growth and confidence in the economy is due to the red-hot tech industry. What you may not know is that our economy is undergoing a fundamental and very real shift.

For the past few decades, San Francisco and Silicon Valley have been the envy of the world due to our leadership in technology and, thanks to companies like Cisco and others, we will remain leaders.

Technology will of course remain as one of the foundational platforms of the world’s economy, but if San Francisco and the Bay Area are going to stay on top, we must recognize the world is moving from an era dominated by technology — utilizing tools and machines to solve problems — to an era that will be dominated by big data and analytics.

What exactly are big data and analytics? Thanks to technology, we can now capture vast amounts of data streaming off of billions of sensors and connected devices that pervade every aspect of our lives. Through analytics we can turn these data into meaningful information that will allow us to see the world around us like we never imagined. These new insights are what drive our business and personal decisions.

A doctor can run a query in a database that then provides the best options for a patient. Businesses can predict which products to sell and at what price. Managers and coaches in any number of sports can track opponents’ strategies to gain an edge. Individuals can track their carbon footprint. The list goes on and on.

Our workforce — and the business world — need new skills to unlock the secrets and the power of big data and analytics. San Francisco and the Bay Area need to leverage our traditional role as the place where the world looks for technological innovation, and now also become the place where the world looks for the skills and talent needed to manage and understand the data that these technologies are making available.

The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, The City’s largest and most vibrant business organization, is hosting a conference on Wednesday called ForecastSF: Cities of the Future. At this important event, we will explore the marriage between technology and the skilled and adaptable workforce necessary to fulfill our economic potential.

To maintain San Francisco’s and the Bay Area’s role as world leaders in producing and retaining talent, our educational institutions must transform into innovation hubs. We will hear from the University of the Pacific how they are helping to develop the skills base and talent pool we will need in the data era through courses and programs designed for working professionals, and that leverage industry case studies and sponsored projects to balance classroom learning with real-world experience.

We will also hear from visionary economists John Silvia of Wells Fargo and Wayne Best of Visa, Inc., Kim Majerus, a Vice President at Cisco Systems, and Jay Nath, Office of the Mayor’s Chief Innovation Officer. The speakers will tie together how changes in the economy, consumer trends and technology are helping to drive the need for big data and analytics.

What will the cities of the future look like? Our vision is cities where people are connected. We foresee cities with well-managed public transportation, top schools, and accessible health care. And with the power of big data and analytics, we have the ability to create this future.

We hope you will join us. Learn more at www.sfchamber.com.

Rick Hutley is program director, clinical professor, analytics, at the University of the Pacific. Bob Linscheid is president and CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

This article first appeared in the June 29 San Francisco Examiner.