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Meet the Index’s Newest Members!

Name: Kendra Hills

Position: Program Director

Hometown: Alexandria, Louisiana

Q: How did you come to join the DAI?

A: I recently graduated with my Masters in Urban Planning with a concentration in smart cities from the University of Pennsylvania. During my time there, my interest in the intersections of cities, technology, and data grew tremendously. Particularly the ways in which data tools like the Muni Index can help city officials make more informed decisions on public investments that benefit everyone. When I graduated, I joined the Centri Tech Foundation as the Program Director of Digital Advancement Initiatives, and the Digital Advancement Institute and the Muni Index are core initiatives within my portfolio. I have been in this role for four months and am excited about what we have in store for the DAI.

Q: What excites you most about the Muni Index and its mission?

A: What is most exciting about the Muni Index is its ability to bridge the gap between data and city officials and policy leaders/advocates. The index is impactful in that it has the ability to start conversations around the ways in which cities are managing the digital transition, and I think that is really powerful. The Muni Index is also exciting because it urges users to move beyond the conversation of digital access, and instead think about how other factors, such as socioeconomics, housing, and education, work jointly with technology to impact a person's quality of life and promote shared economic prosperity.

Name: Hazel Zhang

Position: Graduate Data Analyst

Hometown: Lanzhou, China

Q: How did you come to join the DAI?

A: After completing my Master's in Urban Spatial Analytics at the University of Pennsylvania, my passion for using data to inform and empower policymakers led me to the Centri Tech Foundation. The Digital Advancement Municipal Index (Muni Index) appealed to me as it provides a platform to create valuable data applications that aid policymakers and the public. My aspirations harmonize with the team’s mission to promote digital equity and to provide refined, insightful data that informs and enlightens diverse stakeholders.

Q: What excites you most about the Muni Index and its mission?

A: I have a profound love for data, and what excites me the most about the Muni Index is its commitment to disseminating our research findings to the public. I’m thrilled about crafting creative graphics and generating innovative ideas inspired by our use cases. The Muni Index goes beyond merely presenting results; it serves as a bulb, encouraging people to delve deeper and reflect on our findings.

Interacting directly with the actual users—those who are at the helm of a city’s administration—is a great opportunity to exchange and share ideas. For a data analyst like me, breaking down the walls between data results and pragmatic policymaking is an incredibly rewarding experience.

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