#ThisWeekInData October 16, 2015

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.

New York City’s BigApps, a competition that solicits technology solutions to civic challenges, closed its latest round of project submissions. This year, BigApps sought proposals in four areas: affordable housing, zero waste, connected cities, and civic engagement. Writing in NextCity, Kate Daly of the New York City Economic Development Corporation highlighted past winners and emphasized the importance of citizen innovators to the city.

2014 BigApps winner Vizalytics made the news this week with New York City’s announcement of neighborhoods.nyc, a new platform for neighborhood-specific information in the city. The real-time data available will include 311 requests, construction alerts, and transit and traffic information. The city hopes that community partners will use the site and add their own data and engagement opportunities for residents.

The most common criticism of such app competitions is that they don’t lead to sustainable products. Derek Eder, founder of DataMade and lead organizer of Chi Hack Night, addressed this important issue in a blog post about the work he does to keep Chicago Public School Tiers up to date. He’s been updating this tool for Chicago parents for three years. because “If we are truly doing this work to improve the public good, then we need to put energy into maintaining, and not just building, civic technology.”

Arlington, Texas joined a growing trend when it released an RFQ for a City Data Strategic Plan this week. More and more governments are creating such plans to shape the way that data and technology develop in their cities. Anthony Townsend and Stephen Lorimer have published a working paper studying the use of digital master planning in cities around the world.

The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University and the Salvation Army released a Human Needs Index, which measures and maps measures of poverty across the United States from 2004 to the present. The index is based on extensive data collected by the Salvation Army on factors including groceries, medical assistance, and utility payments, which draw a more nuanced picture of poverty than income measures alone. The partnership is an exciting example of data sharing among nonprofits, universities, and government to advance the public good.

As the field matures, civic tech startups have been getting some serious investments. This week, budget visualization company OpenGov announced a $25 million round of investment. Re/code’s Noah Kulwin wrote about the news and interviewed Marc Andreessen, who joined OpenGov’s board this week. We’ve previously covered Palo Alto, CA’s use of OpenGov on Data-Smart.

On our site, we wrote about ways to apply data tools to systemic poverty and inequality issues based on a recent conversation we hosted at Harvard Kennedy School. Participants talked about comparing “sad maps” of indicators with service distribution to identify inequalities; understanding positive deviance; and identifying root causes of problems to target early intervention.

We also covered the growing use of bicycle-based data in cities, ranging from new sensors to count bicycles to bike share visualizations and even bike-mounted air quality sensors.