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.
Alex Alben, the Chief Privacy Officer for the state of Washington, is leading the development of an online resource that he hopes will serve as a starting point for governments to develop privacy best practices. Taking the form of a checklist, the resource will provide broad-brush advice on a number of topics, including phishing scams and location tracking.
The Privacy Checklist offers to solve a common problem. As government work in general becomes increasingly tech-intensive, governments and their agencies are left searching for guidelines for the safe use of data. The hope is that the Checklist will provide a solid foundation off which they can develop their own best practices.
The state plans to launch a beta in the next two weeks and, if the beta proves successful, put a finished project on GitHub.
San Jose Seeking Its First CDO — GovTech
The city of San Jose, California is seeking a Chief Data Officer to help build relationships with tech companies and make the city’s data more accessible. The city’s interest in filling the new position is born from a recognition of the ‘data layer’ spreading across city infrastructure as IoT sensors become more ubiquitous and new data-powered services emerge.
Last week, researchers from MIT and Colorado University Boulder released a paper comparing data gathered from Continuous Emissions Monitoring Systems (CEMS) installed in Chinese coal power plants to emissions readings from a NASA-owned satellite. They confirmed that Chinese regulations did lower sulfur dioxide levels, with the caveat that CEMS data overestimates the drop.
It’s unclear whether the discrepancy is due to conscious misreporting, but there was a noticeable trend: CEMS data got worse in areas where emissions standards were stricter. The researchers suggested this may be due to the fact that the penalty for falsifying data is lower than for violating the standard.
This points to a conundrum in environmental compliance: How can governments best get their citizens invested in the honest reporting of environmental data?
The government technology startup is launching two applications—Accela Civic Application for Planning and Accela Civic Application for Building—that aim to help cities streamline the approval process for housing and commercial development. The main strategy for speeding things up is transparency: The apps lay out the steps of the review and approval process for both the government and the applicant, making the location of bottlenecks in the system apparent to both parties.
“We’ve seen 50, 80 percent-plus savings in time,” says Accela CEO Mark Jung.
Intermix.io Looks to Help Find Data Bottlenecks — TechCrunch
A new company wants to help you keep track of your data. Intermix.io is developing a tool to monitor data flows and highlight inefficiencies in the query process. The end game is to remove hurdles from the path of good data science, which is often tripped up by messy data storage.
Leveraging Data and Technology to Help Low-Income Residents — Urban Institute
The Civic Tech and Data Collaborative has some advice for cities who want to use data to help their low-income residents: Collaborate across sectors, commit to shared principles, and draw upon collective skills. The Collaborative points to success stories like Data Days, an annual event led by a Cleveland open data collaborative that provides data training to community members, and YourSTLCourts.com, a online platform for checking up on tickets that was born from community discussion on local priorities.
The general lesson? There’s more to open data than just open data: Many of the advantages it provides come only when a community and a mindset is fostered around it.
The city of Austin, Texas is considering a 12-month pilot program to run autonomous, electric buses along a route servicing City Hall, the Central Library, and a MetroRail station. The program will be funded by RATP Dev, a French transportation provider, and the frontrunner for the manufacturer is EasyMile, another French company, whose autonomous shuttle EZ10 was previously tested by Capital Metro, RATP Dev, and UT-Austin.
New App Aims to Crowdsource Policymaking — StartupBeat
StartupBeat spoke with Amit Thakkar, the creator of a digital platform where citizens can propose, amend, and support new policy ideas. It’s called Lawmaker.io, and Thakkar hopes it will help Americans develop a sense of ownership over their politics.
The idea of leveraging the connectivity that the Internet allows toward civic engagement is promising, and Lawmaker has already seen some success: Currently, a policy idea proposed by a Lawmaker user is being considered (PDF) by the Los Angeles legislature.
Using Fair Housing Data to Examine Opportunity across the US — Urban Institute
Researchers with the Urban Institute used federal Fair Housing data to examine the persistence of inequality of opportunity in the United States. The Institute finds that, while urban areas provide better employment opportunities for many, there exist stark disparities in labor engagement between White and Asian/Pacific Islander residents and Black, Hispanic, and Native American residents—starker, even, than in rural areas.
The Urban Institute believes that their analysis demonstrates the importance of multidimensional measures of opportunity, which provide a more nuanced understanding of inequality in the United States than does a single composite measure.