By Data-Smart City Solutions • July 27, 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, Eric Bosco profiled the winner of Harvard’s Map of the Month, Vision Zero Boston—a visual collection of maps, apps, charts, and infographics related to the city’s effort to eliminate traffic fatalities. The story map platform provides residents with up-to-date accident data and the ability to individually report safety concerns pinpointed by street or neighborhood on a crowdsourced map – all in one place.

Also on Data-Smart, Robert Burack detailed Burgh’s Eye View: Parcels—the latest addition to Pittsburgh’s open data mapping platform. The Parcels map allows public users to view, by neighborhood, delinquent properties, city-owned properties, and properties in a tax abatement program. Users can also view information about any specific parcel, including type of owner, property class, sale information, county land value, and liens and tax delinquencies. 

Brookings published a report on the potential for using private transportation and land use datasets to inform how cities plan and build communities. The report concludes that while privately owned data is immense in scope and incredibly valuable, public agencies must address a number of core challenges in order to leverage this data for the public good. Agencies must work to develop their internal analytics capacity, update their procurement processes, and develop viable models of privacy protection in order to obtain and effectively integrate private data.

Results for All—an initiative of Results for America that works with government leaders to harness the power of data and evidence—published a report that outlines more than one hundred government mechanisms to advance the use of data and evidence in policymaking. The aim of the report is to showcase the range of approaches governments have taken to build capacity for evidence-informed policymaking and thereby galvanize implementation of data-driven strategies.

The City of Syracuse launched DataCuse, an open data portal that gives the public access to information on infrastructure, housing, and neighborhoods and will gather more data over time. Syracuse chief data officer Sam Edelstein built the site and organized the available data, and will spend the coming weeks demonstrating the portal to community groups. Through the process, the city has focused on users, asking residents what sort of data would be useful for them. Read more at

In order to improve results from its free and reduced-cost lunch program, the State of Mississippi turned to an interagency data sharing agreement, according to GovTech. The Mississippi Department of Education worked with the Department of Human Services, using the department’s SNAP data in an attempt to match with students eligible for reduced-cost lunch. As a result, the state was able to identify eligible students with more than 95 percent accuracy.    

The New York Times reported that New York City’s Human Resources Administration has released a cellphone app called HRA Mobile that allows residents to apply for food stamps via their mobile phones. Those seeking food stamps can now take pictures of the required documents with their phones and upload the photos to the app. The app promises to reduce loads in Human Resources offices and make the process of applying for food stamps easier and quicker for residents.

Also in the New York Times, Senators Kamala Harris and Rand Paul contributed an op-ed calling for states to implement data-driven pretrial decisions via the Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act. The bill provides Department of Justice grants directly to states so they can devise and carry out the most effective policies tailored to their specific needs and emulate best practices. Harris and Paul pointed to personalized risk assessments used to inform pretrial decisions in Kentucky and New Jersey and nudges employed in Colorado and West Virginia that provide telephone reminders so fewer defendants miss court dates as examples to replicate.

On the topic of criminal justice, GovLab featured an article from the Financial Times that documents China’s efforts to implement technologies that, using information on citizens’ histories, can predict and prevent crimes. Companies are helping police develop artificial intelligence they say will help them identify and apprehend suspects before criminal acts are committed. For example, facial recognition company Cloud Walk has been trialing a system that uses data on individuals’ movements and behavior — for instance visits to shops where weapons are sold — to assess their chances of committing a crime. Its software warns police when a citizen’s crime risk becomes dangerously high, allowing the police to intervene.