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 City of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is working with Chinese retailer Alibaba to use artificial intelligence in an effort to alleviate traffic congestion. Alibaba’s software, called City Brain, makes live traffic predictions, optimizes traffic flow, and detects traffic incidents using data from video footage, traffic bureaus, public transportation systems, and mapping apps. When integrated with other urban management systems, the platform can automate emergency dispatching and help emergency vehicles find the quickest routes. Alibaba previously deployed City Brain in Hangzhou, China, after which average traffic speed increased 15 percent, and traffic violations were reported with 92 percent accuracy. Read more at Quartz.
Route Fifty profiled an initiative in Chicago to create a working group that will develop a youth quality of life index and scorecard measuring the impact of the city’s youth investments over time and informing future budgets. The working group seeks to address chronic joblessness among young black residents after research from the Great Cities Institute at the University of Chicago showed that out of school and out of work rates for this group correlated with increased homicides. Using research, statistical data and evidence-based metrics, the working group will evaluate city policies and programs at the neighborhood level.
Wired’s Susan Crawford discussed the potential risks involved in allowing private companies like Google’s Sidewalk Labs to play a role in urban planning. Crawford warns that smart city agreements often benefit private companies at the expense of cities. In a partnership with Sidewalk Labs in Toronto, the city will likely get very little of the information Google learns from its citizens. Before entering such partnerships, cities must contemplate whether they are being good stewards for their reputation and long-term trustworthiness.
CityLab published an interview with Virginia Eubanks, whose new book, Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor, analyzes the potential for well-meaning automated tools to compromise the human rights and dignity of those they seek to help. While automated tools have the capacity to make services more impartial and efficient, unintended consequences often arise. Eubanks argues that technology can sever personal relationships with government in favor of confusing processes that keep residents from accessing services.
Here on Data-Smart, Stephen Goldsmith and Chris Bousquet highlighted the efforts of governments and volunteers to coordinate response during the hurricanes this fall, and called for more collaboration down the road. Throughout the storms, first responders used volunteer-created maps to identify stranded residents and ensure that help could reach them safely, and residents used maps to identify the locations of shelters. While governments were initially hesitant to use volunteer resources, as the hurricanes continued, volunteers and governments began to share more data, and should deepen this collaboration before the next emergency strikes.
According to StateScoop, as it continues to recover from Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico is partnering with the Smart Cities Council to rebuild its infrastructure in a way that includes cutting-edge technologies. The partnership is a part of the Smart Cities Council’s Readiness Challenge, which offers workshops, digital tools and contributed resources from the IT industry for smart city growth.
The City of Columbus, OH has released an RFP for an operating system to support the variety of applications under its Smart Columbus initiative, GovTech reported. In 2016, Columbus was named the recipient of $50 million in grant money tied to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge. The windfall brought with it some $90 million from local businesses and a sizable portfolio of hardware, software and support services from technology companies. The city hopes to develop an operating system that can manage and share data from the various projects it will pursue with this funding.
Also on Data-Smart, we posted a recording of our webinar on predictive analytics, hosted by Chicago CDO Tom Schenk and the Ash Center’s Sean Thornton. From forging unique partnerships to finding new ways to use its data, the City of Chicago has taken many innovative approaches to develop predictive models that enhance city services and quality of life for residents. In the webinar, Schenk and Thornton review these approaches through the lens of several successful use cases.
A report from the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts showed that a social media monitoring tool used by the Boston Police Department to identify potential threats swept up the posts of people using the hashtag #MuslimLivesMatter and a lawmaker’s Facebook update about racial inequality. The ACLU says that the police department’s use of Geofeedia to mine the internet between 2014 and 2016 appears to have had little benefit to public safety while unfairly focusing on groups such as Muslims. Boston police say the ACLU’s conclusions are misguided and that the program helped police successfully monitor events that could lead to demonstrations or crowds and threaten security. Read more at the Boston Globe.
DJ Patil, former Chief Data Scientist of the United States Office of Science and Technology Policy, wrote a post outlining the need for a code of ethics for data scientists. While analytics has done a lot of good, many are now grappling with questions of bias, privacy, security, and more. Patil calls for data scientists to collaborate in creating a set of principles to guide and hold each other accountable as data science professionals, and to share their learnings online.
For our Map Monday series, Jess Weaver showcased the Opportunity Zone Qualification map, a visualization that identifies areas that qualify as “Opportunity Zones” under the new tax bill. These Opportunity Zones are low-income communities that provide incentives for investment. State chief executives have to make a choice about what areas to designate as Opportunity Zones 90-120 days from December 22, 2017, and can only designate 25 percent of low-income tracts in their regions. By visualizing all potential Opportunity Zones and highlighting the neediest communities, this map can serve as a selection tool for civic leaders grappling with how to best distribute Opportunity Zone status.