By Data-Smart City Solutions • December 1, 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, Chris Bousquet profiled the latest winner of Harvard’s Map of the Month competition—the KC Digital Inclusion Map. The Kansas City, MO-created map overlays public FCC data on Internet service providers’ (ISP) highest advertised broadband rates with Census poverty data in order to uncover relationships between connectivity and poverty. The city’s innovation office hopes the visualization will show other city departments the immense value of digital inclusion, as well as help the city and area non-profits identify neighborhoods in need of interventions to improve connectivity.

The Civic Analytics Network will host a webinar titled Human-Centered Approaches to Data + Digital Services on December 12 from 12pm-1pm ET. With input from Pittsburgh Ash Fellow Robert Burack, the webinar will highlight human-centered design as an effective and empathetic way to build tools and services, craft public policy, and solve problems that matter. Register for the webinar here.

Code for America announced a new effort called the Integrated Benefits Initiative, drawing support from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. The project is intended to help government better design services for vulnerable residents, envisioning a reimagined integrated enrollment service. Code for America will focus on the needs of users, ensuring “a government that fits into people’s lives, rather than a government that makes people fit their life into government forms.”

The GovLab at NYU also launched a new initiative—“Solving Public Problems with Data,” an introductory online course for public servants developed with support from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation that teaches attendees why and how to apply data science and data analytics in their work. Based on real-world examples and case studies, lectures focus on data science, data analytics, and data policy to help practitioners move towards more evidence-based approaches.

GovTech reported that the Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins has created an international open data standards directory, aspiring to give cities a singular resource for guidance on formatting data they release to the public. Because the format in which municipal data is released often varies depending on subject matter, the process for researching and developing standards can be burdensome for cities. This directory seeks to expedite this process, providing a list of standards in use within municipal governments, as well as an evaluation based on how frequent that use is, whether the format is machine-readable, and whether users have to pay to license it.

For Map Monday, Chris Bousquet examined the Mobileye and Esri Story Map, which seeks to increase understanding of near-collision events with pedestrians in order help cities prevent accidents. Leveraging visual analytics company Mobileye’s technology to detect the locations of pedestrians, Esri mapped near misses throughout the day in New York City. By analyzing the locations and causes of these near misses, cities can develop initiatives to prevent accidents.

Urban Demographics highlighted a paper that outlines a method for determining the demographic and political characteristics of neighborhoods by analyzing car images from Google Street View. Using machine learning computer vision techniques, the model can determine the make, model, and year of motor vehicles in neighborhoods and extrapolate to accurate estimations of income, race, education, and voting patterns. Such a method may present a faster, less expensive, and less labor-intensive alternative to the traditional American Community Survey.

Digital Trends discussed SAM, an AI bot that answers user policy questions over Facebook messenger. Touted as the world’s first virtual politician, SAM seeks to reduce informational bias by providing as nonpartisan a view on current issues as possible.

Facebook recently held a civic hackathon, inviting in-house engineers and representatives from other tech companies to apply machine learning to the City of Seattle’s open data platform. Facebook picked two winners: “Find ’n Park,” which uses deep learning vision models to determine the number of cars in lots and gives info on the availability of parking, and “Contractor 5,” which uses city permitting open data and natural language processing to produce cost estimates for construction projects. Read more on Seattle’s Tech Talk blog.  

Also on the topic of civic tech competitions, the Urban Institute launched the 500 Cities Data Challenge, which invites communities to dig into the 500 Cities data and design innovative solutions that address social factors influencing health. This competition builds upon the 500 Cities project, an initiative to provide city- and census tract-level small area estimates for chronic disease risk factors, health outcomes, and clinical preventive service use for the largest 500 cities in the United States. 

Route Fifty discussed the proposal to share student criminal records with schools in order to protect teachers. While some argue that it is imperative to have information on student criminal activity in order to prevent incidents, others say that such a practice would violate student privacy and lead teachers to treat students differently even if the students were never convicted.