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To be sure, big tech can zap some city weaknesses. But, argues Alec Appelbaum, many urban problems require a decidedly different approach.

“The answers that make cities run more smoothly only inadvertently end up being the ones that make cities run more equitably. Deep data can learn and display policy cues that used to flow from guesswork. What it can do less reliably is reflect democratic action.

For that, you need more people discussing issues with more equal information and franchise. And that can most easily come from decidedly low-tech, but widely accessible, technologies like Facebook pages and e-mail chains. After all, cities don’t have to buy “smart” software to get smarter.”