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.
Open source software can significantly reduce the cost and increase the scope of a data project, but according to an article on GovTech, increased use of open source platforms also makes government applications vulnerable to hacking. While the platforms may be secure, the projects on those platforms are still open to malicious code, and statistics suggest that open source vulnerabilities are escalating. The article recommends that governments automate open source management, use analysis tools to monitor vulnerabilities and quickly resolve them, and place responsibility on software engineers to properly assess the risks of open source software.
The National League of Cities published a report advocating for government use of blockchain software to build public trust. According to the report, blockchain technology provides scale efficiencies by decentralizing information and stimulating collaboration while keeping information secure in a seemingly “hack-proof” system. Blockchain could improve digital inclusion initiatives, licensing and permitting processes, and transportation infrastructure, among others.
Business Wire reported the unveiling of the “World’s Smartest Intersection” in downtown Detroit, a network of sensors and connected traffic signals designed to improve intersection efficiency and safety. Miovision, which specializes in smart intersection equipment, built upon its own pre-existing Detroit infrastructure to improve real-time responses to traffic conditions. Traffic signals can now prioritize freight vehicles at certain intersections to direct them away from crowded streets, time green lights for cyclists’ use, alert drivers of jaywalkers ahead, and perform a variety of useful analytics for better mobility.
Tod Newcombe of GovTech interviewed Tyler Kleykamp, the state of Connecticut’s first Chief Data Officer. Kleykamp emphasized the importance of a peer state CDO network to share ideas about this emerging role within government, discussed how he approaches data-driven solutions to public problems, explained how his work interacts with that of the state’s IT agency, and shared some of the difficulties he faces as CDO.
Algorithm Observatory has launched a prototype of a product that, when fully developed, will help researchers analyze how social computing algorithms treat data differently from users based on certain traits such as race and determine the social impact of algorithmic categorizations.
ZDNet reported that the New Zealand government is performing an algorithm stocktake to ensure its algorithms do not promote bias. Minister for Government Digital Services Claire Curran says the New Zealand government is “acutely aware of the need to ensure transparency and accountability” around emerging artificial intelligence.
On Data-Smart, Jess Weaver outlined takeaways from the efforts of cities like Washington D.C., Boston, New York City, and San Jose to optimize inspections for rats, restaurants, buildings, and more. It’s critical for cities to think carefully about potential inaccuracies in data sources and use a variety of complementary sources when possible to gain an accurate picture of the problem. Moreover, analysts should work to make inspection optimizations actionable for agencies and consider collective priorities in their analysis.
Next City discussed Transit Alliance Miami’s “Where’s My Bus” series, an analysis of the city’s bus program—which has been rapidly losing riders in recent years due to “ghost buses” (buses that don’t show up), service cuts, inefficient routes, and lack of bus lanes. One study from McGill University found that alternative transit options like Uber and Bikeshare did not significantly impact transit use, while quantity of service provided did. Transit Alliance Miami, a transit advocacy group, advocates for greater investment in bussing in Miami and will release recommended policies next week.
Sacramento is beginning a pilot program for digital license plates on electric cars, according to an article on GovTech. The license plates will hook up to the car’s computer and perform a variety of functions. They can track a car’s route and mileage, display messages to pedestrians or other cars to improve “human-robot interaction,” and could even provide important information to residents, such as amber alerts or reports of a stolen car.
Route Fifty examined new vehicle health monitoring systems aboard fire trucks in Nashville and San Bernardino. The platform, called Captium, will provide real time analytics to firefighters about their trucks ranging from tire issues to predicted service needs to the structural integrity of the chassis. The hope is that improved monitoring through the connection of individual vehicles into a larger department platform will allow firefighters to prevent large problems by catching them in their early stages. Improved performance data will improve safety and save departments money.