By Data-Smart City Solutions • September 15, 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.

Register for the Harvard Summit on Data-Smart Government! On November 7-8, the Civic Analytics Network (CAN)—a peer group of leading Chief Data Officers (CDOs) from America’s largest cities—will invite participants to take part in training and workshops about how to transform city services through data. The summit will also include sessions on how cities can leverage data for public safety, mobility, inspections, and more. 

On Data-Smart, Chris Bousquet introduced Map Monday, a new weekly series highlighting data visualizations that help resolve critical civic issues. The first installation showcased Is the American Dream Still Affordable, a story map seeking to reveal the effect of underlying demographic change on local affordability or vice-versa. The map shows that between 2012 and 2017, housing has become less affordable in the United States, especially in major metropolitan areas. This trend should remind policymakers that in times of rapid population growth, they must facilitate the development of new, affordable housing

Wired examined Indiana’s use of interdepartmental data to tackle the opioid crisis. Earlier this year, Indiana launched an online opioid data center, where police departments, hospitals, pharmacies, mental-health agencies, and others contribute data with the hopes of facilitating a more comprehensive understanding of opioid abuse. The database includes information on drug arrests, drug seizures, death records, pharmacy robberies, overdose-related ambulance calls, and the use of naloxone, and allows agencies to log and observe trends via data-visualization tools. These tools have allowed the state to make more informed decisions, for instance where to locate five new opioid-treatment facilities.

By analyzing text descriptions of open datasets from 141 cities and state governments across the country, the Sunlight Foundation scored and ranked open datasets on their popularity. Topping the list is police and crime data, followed by transportation data, and then emergency call information.  

The University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business created a new chatbot called MarHub that helps asylum seekers through the complicated process of applying to become an official refugee. Much information on the asylum process is either missing or out of date, so MarHub walks the user through what to expect and how to present their case. MarHub is also expandable, so that new information or regulations can be quickly added. Read more at Springwise.

On Data-Smart, Sean Thornton discussed Chicago’s Clear Water Project, an effort to ensure clean beach water through a combination of new water testing technologies, predictive modeling, and volunteer engagement. While no one of these tools was particularly effective in isolation, integrating the three into a broader initiative has produced promising results. Based on its pilot run in 2017, the Clear Water Project method was able to issue water quality advisories with three times more accuracy than Chicago’s previous method.

On Governing, Stephen Goldsmith profiled Indianapolis’s new website, which not only sports a slick new UX, but also moved many manual application processes online. The site has greatly reduced the time required to apply for services—for instance, a mortgage deduction application process that once took five to ten days now takes 20 minutes. Moreover, the city aspires to never ask a resident for the same information twice, using the same data to meet a number resident needs.

Governing also published an article emphasizing the need to leverage data in the Hurricane Harvey and Irma recovery. According to the article, leaders and the public need a shared understanding of the scale and extent of the damage and which households, businesses and neighborhoods have been affected. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, this kind of data led to informed action, with federal and state agencies understanding those areas requiring the most attention.

Also on the topic of hurricane response, first responders relied on data-driven applications throughout both emergencies in order to identify residents in need, locate shelters, and assess damage. Responders collaborated with the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and ESRI to fine-tune these apps, adding functionality like the ability to track response teams’ location and status. As a result, going forward, these applications will be even better suited for such emergency situations. Read more at GCN.

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, nonprofit SkyTruth launched a tool for citizens to report pollution caused by flooding, Civicist reported. Called the Harvey Spill Tracker, the application maps reports of oil, chemical, or hazardous waste spills and other incidents based on satellite images, eyewitness accounts, and National Response Center alerts. Like many other tools used in the Harvey relief effort, the map was repurposed to aid with Hurricane Irma.