#ThisWeekInData September 29, 2017

By Data-Smart City Solutions • September 29, 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, Daniel Harsha and Chris Bousquet profiled the GEOLOOM co>map, Harvard’s latest Map of the Month. GEOLOOM is a searchable and interactive map of Baltimore, presenting users with a bevy of information about arts and cultural resources overlaid with key community indicators such as census demographics, children and family health, and crime and safety data. Using the tool, communities can work to gain access to funding and resources and display arts and culture in their community through crowdsourcing, and city agencies can visualize and fill gaps in arts and cultural institutions.

In other mapping news, Chris Bousquet examined the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition Dashboard as a part of our Map Monday series. Based on Harris County criminal court disposition data from 2010-2016, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition Dashboard allows users to understand trends in court determinations and bail based on race, indigency status, arresting agency, and type of crime. By examining disparities in outcomes, governments can make more informed interventions—whether that be seeking to improve state-provided representation, increasing support for legal aid societies, appointing a more representative group of judges, or some other effort.

Statescoop discussed BoardStat, a tool created by Microsoft and New York civic tech group BetaNYC that provides residents a hyperlocal view of 311 requests in Manhattan’s 12 community districts. By displaying 311 data on a set of 12 dashboards and providing a map of service requests across Manhattan, the tool transforms arcane data into a resource any member of the public can use to answer questions and solve problems.

Also from StateScoop, Washington D.C. adopted the Video Analytics towards Vision Zero initiative, a partnership with Microsoft that enables residents to teach artificial intelligence programs how to identify dangerous intersections. The partnership uses D.C.’s 130 traffic cameras to collect video footage the public can mark with identifying details. Visitors to a public website can highlight pedestrians, cars, buses, bicycles, motorcycles and other vehicles in boxes that the AI software can use to determine where potential crashes are occurring.

GovLab published a report called The Potential of Social Media Intelligence to Improve People’s Lives that outlines the value of social media data for informing solutions to contemporary problems. The report identifies data collaboratives— public-private partnership in which actors from different sectors exchange information—as a viable approach for governments to extract information from privately held data.

The MetroLab Network also released a report called First, Do No Harm that establishes ethical guidelines for applying predictive tools in human services. The report acknowledges that careless or unskilled development of predictive tools could worsen disparities among clients receiving social services. In order to avoid such unintended consequences, MetroLab recommends engaging both city leaders and community members, pre-validating models, reviewing tools, and then making predictive work transparent.

A paper from New Scientist analyzed the state of Illinois’ efforts to use a blockchain-like ledger to protect digital birth certificates. Using this system, governments could eschew archaic paper birth certificates while giving residents ultimate control over their own data.

CityLab discussed the need for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to expand its service to the poor during disasters, providing communities with free or heavily discounted minutes. During the recent suite of Hurricanes, many residents in Houston and Puerto Rico found themselves relying on the cellphones of only a couple community members, as 90 percent of cell sites in Puerto Rico were out of commission. However, as their phones became community hubs, the residents who had working phones faced the challenge of limited minutes. The FCC could fill this need by providing free or low-cost minutes in emergency situations.