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 profiled our most recent Map of the Month winner—Who Votes for Mayor? Created by a research team out of Portland State University, Who Votes for Mayor? maps the distribution of voter turnout in the most recent mayoral elections in 50 cities and compares turnout with indicators like race, poverty, age, and education level. The recent batch of mayoral elections saw abysmal turnout, with an average of around 20 percent across the cities studied. Using insights from the map, governments can develop reforms to increase participation overall and more effectively target voter outreach efforts to communities with the lowest turnout.
The GovLab announced a new initiative called Blockchange, which seeks to assess the potential of using blockchain for social change. With support from the Rockefeller Foundation, GovLab will assess the value, challenges, and risks of using blockchain for social change; identify demand; and develop a set of evidence-based design principles that can guide the development and use of blockchain.
The Information Technology Industry Council—a D.C.-based group representing Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, IBM, and Microsoft—released a set of principles for developing ethical artificial intelligence (AI) systems. Principles include ensuring the responsible design and deployment of AI, testing for potentially harmful bias in underlying data, and committing to a reasonable accountability framework for addressing concerns. Read more at Axios.
Also on the topic of AI, GovTech examined the potential to use chatbots powered by artificial intelligence to replace city government apps. Chatbots can automate specific government service functions and help citizens navigate the government architecture. For example, if a resident wants transit information, instead of having to install a new smartphone application, she could simply text a government chatbot and receive a message detailing the desired info. These chatbots can guide residents through government processes in a much more customized way, asking follow up questions to create an outcome that matches resident needs.
GovTech also reported that software company OpenDataSoft has launched Open Data America, an initiative to release data portals for more than 500 cities across the United States. The company will offer a basic version of the product for free, hoping to spread open data to midsize cities. Cities will then be able to upgrade to a premium version if they find the platform valuable.
For Map Monday, Chris Bousquet discussed the Residential Needs Assessment for Community Schools Initiative map, created by the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of Education (MOE) to support the city’s community schools program. With this program, the city seeks to address the many contextual factors that affect classroom achievement by calling for schools to become neighborhood centers for support services—a cross between traditional schools and community centers. By aggregating data on poverty, crime, and health, this map allows Philadelphia to visualize the needs of public schools across the city in order to determine the allocation of resources to community schools.
CityLab analyzed Columbus’s efforts to use the $50 million it earned in the Smart City Challenge to serve vulnerable families via high-tech transportation innovation. Part of the winning Columbus proposal was to connect low-income neighborhoods with better means of accessing medical care, jobs, and education. While this funding has produced innovative ideas—like a cellphone-based platform that would allow moms to communicate via SMS with medical care providers and shuttle drivers when they needed rides to the doctor—the city has yet to implement or even plan pilots for these projects.
The Center for Data Innovation published a report detailing the need for federal support if smart city projects are to succeed. The report argues that while city governments can and should manage the transformation towards a connected urban environment, national governments have an important role to play in accelerating and coordinating the development of smart cities.
Two professors from Ecole nationale Supérieure d’Informatique in Algeria wrote a paper outlining a crowd-sourced based approach to enhance decision making in crisis management situations. According to the authors, crowdsourcing can support situational awareness and improve decisions by involving citizens in providing opinions and evaluations of potential response actions.