By Data-Smart City Solutions • April 21, 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, Stephen Goldsmith discussed Kansas City, MO’s effort to create a comprehensive data inventory. CDO Eric Roche reached out to all city departments to understand what data they possess and how they store it, allowing the city to develop a more effective open data strategy. The city can now prioritize data releases based on key goals and knowledge of what can be automated, instead of pushing out only the "low-hanging fruit."

Also on Data-Smart, the Ash Center’s Sean Thornton profiled the release of Chicago’s new open data portal, which collects the city’s broader open data and digital offerings into a central, user-friendly hub. Throughout the development process, the city sought out user input, providing demos and soliciting feedback at civic tech meetups. The resulting portal allows users to explore datasets by category and pulls together data-powered apps and news to improve user experience.

Chris Bousquet wrote an article for Data-Smart outlining and evaluating the various models cities have employed to track air quality using the Internet of Things (IoT). Air quality initiatives fall into three categories: initiatives that add sensors to existing infrastructure, those that leverage mobile sensors, and others that analyze cell phone data. Each model has advantages and drawbacks, and a city’s choice of initiative should depend on its unique needs and capabilities.

MetroLab published a guest post on Data-Smart announcing the launch of the MetroLab Roundtable Series on Urban Instrumentation, which will convene leading voices from government, industry, and non-profits to discuss smart city themes and ultimately produce a number of smart city playbooks. The series is intended to provide a roadmap for ensuring that smart cities remain purposeful, responsible, and open as they become more and more prominent.

The Wall Street Journal examined the rise of smart cities across the United States, documenting the many ways cities have used data to tackle the problems of urban life. Cities have increasingly begun using predictive analytics to prevent problems before they occur, have started using the Internet of Things to collect valuable data, and have leveraged citizen voices as a data source. The article cites Stephen Goldsmith as saying, “In terms of city governance, we are at one of the most consequential periods in the last century.”

The Wall Street Journal also wrote about cities’ use of aerial technology to gather data on the urban environment to inform better policy. For example, New York City created a public 3-D map of the city using aerial photographs taken from a plane. City agencies now use the map when making construction or other urban planning decisions and citizens use it to develop and suggest innovative ideas. Aerial technologies can produce critical information on the urban landscape, but must be implemented with considerations of privacy.

The Knight Foundation announced $1.2 million in grants to Akron, Boston, Detroit, Miami, Philadelphia, and San Jose to guide responsible Internet of Things implementation in those cities. Each city will work on a distinct project with the funding, ranging from strategic planning for IoT to infrastructure mapping for resilience.

Former Microsoft CEO Steven Ballmer and his stealth start-up USAFacts made public a database that provides an integrated look at revenue and spending across federal, state, and local governments. Developed by a team of economists, professors, and other professionals based on federal data, the database includes such information as how many police officers are employed in various parts of the country and how that compares against crime rates, how much revenue is brought in from parking tickets versus the cost to collect, among many other datasets. Read more on the New York Times.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation, Microsoft, and Datakind announced an initiative to use data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence (AI) to improve foster care placements. The organizations are calling upon jurisdictions, child welfare agencies, and data providers to explore and help develop an open source solution that can be shared across the sector. They will be hosting a webinar on Wednesday, May 3 to inform organizations on how they can get involved in the initiative.

Nature published a paper highlighting five ways that governments can employ technology to improve public institutions. The paper emphasizes data-driven decision making, open government data, responsible data use, citizen engagement, and the reorganization of incentives as means of making government more effective and participatory.

Harvard Business Review discussed the potential to use a public blockchain in order to preserve government data. The U.S. federal government and a number of private companies have recently made headlines for altering or deleting data. However, public blockchains keep permanent, time-stamped records of each interaction with data, establishing who had possession of that data and at what time, increasing accountability and allowing citizens to verify that the file they have is the same one that was signed and time-stamped by the creator.