City of Kelowna

Data in Action: Preparing for the Next Chapter of Culture in Kelowna

Oct 21 / 2019

According to the City of Kelowna, its creative sector more than doubled in size from 2009 to 2018, with 3,168 full-time employees—up from 1,279 in 2009.

In the summer of 2018, the City’s Arts, Culture, and Heritage branch—which fosters community creativity by supporting cultural initiatives, including programs and events—began its public consultation process to gather community feedback on culture in Kelowna.

After gathering information from surveys, open houses, stakeholder interviews, and more, the City enlisted the help of a team of students from the University of British Columbia’s Master of Data Science Okanagan program to comb through the data.

The goal of the project was to create an easy-to-understand report that would help residents identify trends in the various forms of data collected and, although the City had completed a manual analysis, they still needed a team with an unbiased view and the ability to train machines.

UBC’s MDS students analyzed both the qualitative and quantitative data collected from non-profit groups in the cultural sector, which consisted of freeform text, numbers, and rating responses and, using Natural Language Processing, web development, and machine learning, trained machines to identify trends and insights from the data.

The team was able to pinpoint the community’s most important needs, which included more affordable spaces, financial assistance, and more support to local groups. They also uncovered residents’ satisfaction rates with cultural facilities, how the community defines culture, and how age plays a factor in cultural priorities—all of which helped inform the City’s 2020-2025 Cultural Plan.

As cities grow and demographics shift, it’s important for municipal governments to stay in touch with the needs and wants of their community.

Data scientists have the skills not only to analyze, but to extract knowledge from data, and communicate that knowledge to leaders, playing a vital role in the success of local governments.

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