Each week we will bring you a summary of what happened this week on our site, on Twitter, and in the wider world of civic data. Suggest stories on Twitter with #ThisWeekInData.
Here on Data-Smart, Chris Bousquet spoke with Ash fellow and Esri urban analytics lead Amen Ra Mashariki about the potential implications of the net neutrality repeal on underserved communities, but the opportunity for cities to use GIS to hold ISPs accountable for equitable service. While ISPs could plausibly divert service from low-income communities to those in which they have a financial stake, rigorous collection and display of internet speed data could put market pressure on ISPs to maintain service throughout cities. According to Mashariki, in order to gain reliable data and ensure ISP transparency, cities should pursue crowdsourcing initiatives and collaborate to identify new sources of information.
The New York City Council unanimously passed a bill directing the creation of a task force that will advise policymakers and city staff on how they should monitor and evaluate computer algorithms, StateScoop reported. The task force will face the difficult challenge of creating a procedure through which the city and affected residents can vet algorithms for bias and accuracy, without releasing publicly proprietary information from the contractors that create these algorithms.
StateScoop also covered a chatbot-themed hackathon hosted by the Illinois Department of Innovation & Technology, which invited 70 people from in and outside government to create chatbots that would improve government service. The winning team came from the state's Department of Natural Resources, which developed a chatbot that allows users to apply for hunting licenses and handles other common requests. The state hopes to integrate this and many of the other products into its operations.
Smithsonian.com analyzed the efforts of Google parent company Alphabet’s efforts to transform cities through its subsidiary Sidewalk Labs. This fall, Sidewalk Labs and a public agency called Waterfront Toronto announced a partnership to redevelop a plot of aging industrial property in Toronto into a cutting-edge urban neighborhood, complete with self-driving shuttles, internet of things (IoT) sensors, and sustainable design. The designers of the project hope to use the neighborhood’s digital elements in order to understand and better manage the ways people use its physical space. However, critical in this effort will be ensuring that residents are aware of and comfortable with the ways the neighborhood uses their data, and that the project builds privacy protections into the system from the outset.
On Data-Smart, Nancy Torres outlined cities’ efforts to collect and leverage data to improve urban mobility. Using data from traffic monitoring services like Google Maps and Waze as well as from urban sensors, cities have optimized routes for municipal vehicles and informed real-time signal changes on streetlights, reducing congestion and idle time for drivers. As cities move towards autonomous vehicles, the value of connected technology could become increasingly valuable, allowing vehicles to communicate with one another and with city infrastructure to optimize the traffic flow at any intersection, dynamically pay tolls, or find parking.
Through eight case studies, GovLab highlighted the value of data and policy labs in connecting policy makers, government data owners, and university data scientists to improve services through data science. Though they have long collected data, government agencies have struggled to create the infrastructure and acquire the skills needed to use this data and realize the promise of evidence-based policymaking. However, by partnering with researchers, governments have succeeded in making data more usable and valuable.
The Smart Chicago Collaborative and City Digital have merged to create a new organization, City Tech. City Tech will seek to test innovative ideas in civic technology and spread best practices to cities around the world. The organization is currently working on easing subway congestion during large events, creating a digital map of Chicago’s underground, and launching a digital directory of public health services in Chicago.
Another development in the civic tech world, Boston’s chief information officer (CIO) Jascha Franklin-Hodge has announced he will be stepping down from the position in January. Among accomplishments during his tenure, the city redesigned its Boston.gov website, created the Boston 311 service, and used data analytics to boost city services. The outgoing CIO has not decided where he will go next. Read more at the Boston Globe.
The Behavioral Insights Team (BIT) released its first data science report after twelve months of work by the organization’s data science team. The team has worked across policy areas from education to health to children’s social care and road safety, and made use of techniques including natural language processing and causal machine learning.
For Map Monday, we profiled the NYC Citi Bike Visualization, which analyzes Citi Bike data in an effort to ensure that that both bikes and free docks are available when needed. The map plots docking stations and the number of trips started and ended at every hour throughout the day, as well as the city’s most popular bike routes. Using this information, Citi Bike can determine which stations gain and lose bikes throughout the day and distribute bikes accordingly.