Since 2016, The Center of Analytics at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business has annually honored 50 organizations using analytics to solve business challenges. The City of Philadelphia’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (OIA) and Office of Innovation and Technology (OIT) were proud to receive this award on October 5th, 2023 for their work on the Language Usage Dashboard.  

The Office of Immigrant Affairs coordinates language usage data collection from 5+ vendors and 80+ city agencies. In this work, they faced three major challenges:  

  • The manual data management process became labor-intensive. This took time away from program work and advocacy efforts.   
  • Scattered data requests required OIA to create one-off analytics reports. This disrupted workflows and required repetitive calculations.   
  • City employees and the community didn’t realize the language access services that existed, such as translations and interpretation. Previously, reports were pdf-based and difficult to access. They also lacked engaging and easy to understand visualizations of the data.  

To improve these processes and increase data transparency, OIA called on data and technology experts from OIT’s CityGeo team. With OIA’s subject-matter expertise, they collaborated and developed the Language Usage Dashboard.  

The dashboard streamlines data management, replaces manual entry and email-based coordination, and makes the data transparent, engaging, and interactive. It also informed the City about what languages were being spoken in the community besides English. The dashboard supports advocacy efforts, both by those in the public requesting services and City departments during budget planning. Having this data public also promotes healthy competition among vendors, increasing the quality of customer experience.

By moving away from more manual processes, the dashboard saves over two months of OIA staff time annually. At the same time, it increases consistency in data reported to the public and leadership by having it available in a centralized place. The dashboard’s visibility supports the City’s commitment to residents to provide quality language access. It also serves as an accountability channel. It makes sure contracted translation and interpretation vendors report their data, while improving quality of services, providing affordable pricing, and reducing response time to connect with interpreters. It also promotes a wider pool of linguists to provide the requested services in 180+ languages.  

In 2015, Philadelphia residents voted to make language inclusion a permanent part of the City via the Language Access Philly program. This ensures all residents, regardless of the language they read, write, or speak will have access to City services. The dashboard, along with the Translation Services Expansion project, has made a huge impact on the way the City delivers services to residents that speak languages other than English.  

The City’s commitment to language access will continue to expand its efforts through improved translation quality on and annual updates to the Language Usage Dashboard. It’s an honor to be recognized as a Drexel LeBow Analytics 50 for this work.