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.
The Guardian profiled the ways residents in the Plaça del Sol neighborhood in Barcelona have integrated connected technologies and data into old-fashioned community development efforts. After a number of years of resident noise complaints in the lively neighborhood that garnered little response, a group of technology activists reached out and installed sensors to measure noise levels. Through meetings and workshops, residents learned about noise monitoring, and ultimately were able to use the data to produce change in the citizen assembly.
Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs—the Google-affiliated company that designs and tests urban innovations—unveiled Replica, a user-friendly modeling tool that uses anonymized mobile location data to give planning agencies a comprehensive portrait of how, when, and why people travel in urban areas. Replica provides a full set of baseline travel measures that are very difficult to gather and maintain today, including the total number of people on a highway or local street network, what mode they’re using (car, transit, bike, or foot), and their trip purpose. Using this information from only 5 percent of a population, Sidewalk Labs can estimate mobility patterns for an entire city, helping planners make decisions about and study the effects of transportation or land use.
According to Smart Cities Dive, Nokia has announced that it is offering $1.5 billion in funding for a joint program with Smart City Capital LLC that will help Canadian cities pursue smart city initiatives. Nokia and Smart City Capital have created what they call a "best-in-class partner ecosystem" that includes suppliers of technology solutions, communications infrastructure, and architecture to support the investment opportunity.
Route Fifty discussed efforts to modernize operations in the Pittsburgh International Airport using data, artificial intelligence, and smartphone applications. The Allegheny County Airport Authority partnered with Carnegie Mellon’s Metro21: Smart Cities Institute in order to operationalize parts of its $1.1 billion Terminal Modernization Program, which will seek to leverage tech to boost efficiency at check in, ticketing, security and baggage claim. For three years, the university and airport have partnered on accessibility and inclusion projects like a mobile application that directs drivers to empty parking closest to terminal entrances and an effort to analyze the flow of travelers through the airport to aid those with reduced mobility.
On Wired, Chris Bousquet analyzed social media mining efforts by police departments, initiatives that use natural language processing tools to scan social platforms for keywords indicative of danger. A history of bias has plagued these practices, but rather than abandoning social mining altogether, cities should put greater emphasis on civil rights and the needs of citizens. The article argues that law enforcement agencies need to prioritize citizen privacy, pursuing public engagement campaigns that educate residents and gain their feedback, as well more rigorously test their strategies to ensure they only target activity indicative of crime.
Vox examined the potential effects of adopting GDPR regulations in the United States, as applied not only to consumer-oriented companies, but also civil society. The GDPR requires agents to receive explicit consent from users themselves before processing their personal data and inform users within 72 hours if a data breach occurs, and supports these regulations with fines for violators. The author argues that more control over data use by governments as well as companies that can influence political outcomes is an important part of regaining some democratic, citizen-based power.
On Data-Smart, Gretchen Greene introduced a framework for AI ethical risk created by the AI and Governance Assembly, a collaborative initiative of the MIT Media Lab and Harvard Berkman Klein Center. The range of AI applications in government is vast, but the ethical risks of different applications—from fixing potholes to sentencing criminals—vary widely. That difference, as the basis of a taxonomy of AI applications, provides a useful framework for evaluating potential AI applications. Such a taxonomy should take into account the probability and seriousness of possible harm as well as the underlying datasets, algorithm choice, code implementation, secondary uses, as well as evaluations.
The Stanford Social Innovation Review published an article on the need to think carefully about which services might be well suited for automation, and which should be reserved for a human touch. The authors emphasize how critical it will be to make sure that technology adds value to human interactions, rather than replacing them or steering social good in the wrong direction. Determining how to pursue technology but “lead with our humanity” should be a priority for government, opening up avenues to relegate more mundane tasks to automation and give public employees more opportunity to be creative and interact with people.
Route Fifty highlighted a piece of bipartisan legislation that would create a Federal Emergency Management Agency pilot program to help urban areas develop better methods for mapping flood hazards. Three cities with populations of 50,000 and over would be able to participate in the pilot program each year, for four years. Information gleaned from the pilot project would be sent to Congress and FEMA to evaluate best practices and to inform FEMA's flood risk mapping program.
For our Map Monday series on Data-Smart, Chris Bousquet profiled New York City’s Low-Cost Healthcare Centers map, which visualizes pharmacy deserts in the city in order to inform policies that combat opioid abuse and health inequities. While many have long criticized pharmacies for their role in distributing addictive pain pills, a number of pharmacies have recently announced their commitment to making overdose-reversal medications like naloxone available to those in need, even without a doctor’s prescription. The map shows that only 33 percent of pharmacies in the city are within a 15-minute walk of low-cost healthcare centers. Armed with this information, the city can design solutions like granting pharmacies financial incentives to locate their businesses in deserts, or incorporating pharmacies into community health centers.