By Data-Smart City Solutions • January 12, 2018

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, Stephen Goldsmith and Andrew Feldman profiled Washington D.C.’s new policy lab, the Lab @ DC, and recommended that other cities consider building a similar team.Staffed by 15 experts with PhDs in economics, mathematics, and sociology, the Lab seeks to embed the scientific method into the heart of city operations to provide decision-makers with high-quality evidence that they can use to achieve better outcomes for residents. Cities can fund such dedicated teams by pursuing foundation grants as did the Lab @ DC or by drawing on existing talent within city government, starting with a team of a handful, working with academics outside the city, and gradually scaling up.

At CES 2018, Stephen Goldsmith moderated a panel titled "Marrying the Vision and Practical Realities of Smart Cities," which invited a group of smart city visionaries to share lessons learned, discuss pitfalls to avoid, and provide advice on approaching smart city initiatives. Panelists included Alex Fischer (CEO, Columbus Partnership), Hardik Bhatt (Leader, Smart Cities & Mobility Vertical, Amazon Web Services), Kirk Steudle (Director, Michigan Department of Transportation), and Lani Ingrahm (VP Smart Communiti, Verizon). Watch the video of the panel here and see GovTech’s coverage here.

The New York Times discussed the potential for AI and data to improve anti-poverty and unemployment programs. AI can be used to match people to good middle-class jobs that are going unfilled, and can predict where future job openings will lie and which skills and training will be needed for them. Moreover, in the realm of education, AI “tutors” can supplement classroom instruction by adapting coursework to students’ preferred learning style and ensuring they remain engaged. And, governments can analyze data to better target social programs, predicting which programs help certain people at a given time and quickly assessing whether programs are having their desired effect. 

Also on the topic of AI, the Partnership for Public Service and the IBM Center for The Business of Government published a research brief on using artificial intelligence in government. The report focuses on how governments can use AI to deploy law enforcement resources more efficiently, relieve employees of tedious tasks and free them up to handle more complex problems, identify vulnerable residents, and analyze and allow for easy queries into long and complex documents.

GovTech featured Iowa’s work to merge flood sensor data with AI chatbots to provide elected officials, emergency planners, and residents with easily accessible flood information. The Iowa Flood Center is integrating its real-time flood information with platforms including Skype, Facebook Messenger, Siri, Google Assistant, Google Home, and Amazon Echo in order to supply timely information.

For our From Research to Results series on Data-Smart, Chris Bousquet highlighted work from Google Research that offers recommendations for developing ethical guidelines to tech-driven policy. The paper “Composite Ethical Frameworks for IoT and other Emerging Technologies”emphasizes the increased need for ethical design at a time when IoT and AI raise a host of new moral questions. The authors recommend that governments and companies encourage technologists to set baseline goals, research potential consequences, and experiment, collaborate, and iterate to create better outcomes.

Smart Cities Connect, Smart Cities Connect Foundation, and US Ignite are calling for applications to the Smart 50 Awards, a competition that annually recognizes global smart cities projects, honoring the most innovative and influential work. This year, primary categories include governance, mobility, energy, citizen life, and networks.

The Technology Division of the American Planning Association is also calling for nominations for its 2018 Smart Cities Awards. The competition seeks nominations for city plans, projects, or initiatives that have used and/or deployed digital tools, applications and methods.

Next City profiled Chattanooga Peak Academy, a program modeled after a similar effort in Denver meant to empower city employees to create and implement their own improvements to the way their government works. In Chattanooga, more than 100 city employees have gone through the training programs, developing dozens of micro-innovations to make government work more efficiently, from cutting down on the use of paper and ink to experimenting with new recruiting practices to help diversify the city’s police force. And because it’s run by volunteers who work on the program in addition to their regular jobs, Peak Academy doesn’t cost the city anything.