#ThisWeekInData September 8, 2017

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, we published our own interactive map outlining the locations, responsibilities, and major initiatives of all city chief data officers (CDOs) in the United States. The map not only provides a sense of the state of American city data leadership, but also serves as a resource for cities interested in creating a CDO position.

We also posted a lightly edited transcript from Los Angeles CDO Lilian Coral’s portion of the Civic Analytics Network’s (CAN) webinar The Power of Data Visualization in Cities. Coral discussed the city’s GeoHub mapping application, which has transformed city data from a stagnant asset into an actionable tool via visualizations and interactive apps. Recent additions to the GeoHub include tools that allow residents to visualize city development projects, the cleanliness of L.A. streets, concentrations of crime, and building energy use.

Data & Society announced that the four-year project PERVADE (Pervasive Data Ethics for Computational Research) received a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation. Based at the University of Maryland’s College of Information Studies and run via a six-institution collaboration, PERVADE seeks to establish ethical practices and norms to guide those using data to inform policymaking. PERVADE brings together a multi-disciplinary team with expertise in computational science, ethics, law, and policy.

Also on the topic of ethical use of data, the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law published an article examining privacy issues resulting from the IRS’s big data analytics program as well as the potential violations of federal law. The IRS is now engaging in data mining of public and commercial data pools including social media and creating highly detailed profiles of taxpayers upon which to run data analytics. The article argues that such practices violate fair information practices, lacking transparency, accountability, and potentially resulting in discrimination.

On our site, Jon Jay analyzed 311 and mosquito trap data in order to understand the risk of mosquito-borne viruses in southeastern Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. According to Jay’s analysis, mosquitoes will proliferate within a week or two, likely after a steep drop in their abundance, and the several weeks remaining in mosquito season represents a dangerous period for disease transmission in the area.

In other Hurricane Harvey news, during the worst of the flooding, thousands of Houston residents used a three-day-old crowdsourced mapping tool that allowed stranded residents to map their locations. Created by a local developer in his leaky office, Houstonharveyrescue.com connected stranded residents with rescuers who had registered on the site. A team of 100 phone dispatchers followed up with those wanting to be rescued and sent mass text messages with important information. Read more at Quartz.

Fast Company also highlighted the critical role that data and technology played in the Harvey relief effort. Many residents used a local open-data resource connected to water sensors that provided accurate and up-to-date information on the state of flooding. Local and national agencies also used information from resident social media in order to identify critically affected areas and deploy responses.

GovTech highlighted the mobility innovations that have provided transportation to residents in the wake of Harvey’s destruction. Metropedia Inc.— a group of innovators that focus on the creation of traffic congestion management platforms—launched a new online pairing system to match drivers with residents who may have lost their vehicles in the floodwaters and need a ride. Users can sign up at houston-riding.metropia.com, enter their starting location, departure time, and end destination, and Metropia’s algorithms will match them with nearby drivers.

Next Century Cities released a playbook on tech-powered civic engagement detailing lessons learned from Austin, Louisville, and Raleigh, Route Fifty reported. The guide emphasizes the need to engage all stakeholders in a civic tech project area, collaborate across sectors, and match project approaches to functions. Ensuring access to technology must also be an important element of any civic engagement initiative in order to facilitate equitable and representative participation.