#ThisWeekInData August 4, 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 examined the potential for art to cultivate the human side of data programs. In the past, governments have commissioned works of art that seek to express city data in a more personal medium, others that collect data in a more human and engaging way, and still others that critically comment on uses of data. By supporting such works, governments can transform static data points into vibrant experiences more likely to inspire action.

Also on Data-Smart, Devon Ziminski profiled a new initiative of the New York State Attorney General that seeks to use data to understand gun trafficking patterns and assess the effectiveness of state gun laws. The project, Target on Trafficking: New York Crime Gun Analysis, and an accompanying online interactive Tracing Analytics Platform provide data to inform local law enforcement about gun crime in their areas and spell implications for the future of state and federal gun laws. The project found that 74 percent of guns recovered at crime scenes originated out-of-state, informing recommendations for a federal law that makes gun trafficking a federal crime, mandated background checks on private sales, and increased licensing requirements across states.

GovTech highlighted Kansas City, MO’s use of pothole prediction technology, which leverages insights from various data streams to enable work crews to conduct preventative maintenance before potholes appear. The project uses cameras for data related to traffic volume and age of pavement and considers other factors like weather, traffic accidents, or department maintenance to anticipate when a section of street will fail. Rather than requiring expensive installation of new technologies, the project uses existing infrastructure, allowing the city to stretch its budget to resurface more roads each year.

A new mapping tool from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition illustrates the history of redlining in a number of American cities and the ways this practice set the stage for phenomena like gentrification and displacement. Starting in the early 2000s, investors started seeking out low-value neighborhoods in order to flip properties and make a large profit. The map shows how formerly redlined areas are being transformed into hubs for luxury condos and rentals that price out longtime residents. Read more at Next City.

Business Insider detailed the efforts of U.S. senators to address vulnerabilities in Internet of Things (IoT) devices used by the government. With technical counsel from experts at the Atlantic Council and Harvard University, a bipartisan group of senators have introduced legislation requiring that vendors of IoT technologies ensure their products are patchable and conform to industry security standards. It would also prohibit vendors from supplying devices that have unchangeable passwords or possess known security vulnerabilities.

Using application programming interfaces (APIs), governments can break down technology silos between departments and drive agility, according to GCN. APIs have the capacity to expose agency data in a way that makes it accessible to other applications and end-users without compromising integrity. APIs can minimize the time and costs of maintaining legacy technology because they reduce agencies' need to pay for point-to-point connections each time they want to extract data from siloed systems.

CityLab showcased a new database from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) that allows users to visualize the cleanliness of drinking water in every zip code in the U.S. The database pulls about 30 million records from 2010 to 2015, mostly from state agencies. While EWG has not yet analyzed all the data collected, the organization did identify rural and lower-income areas as some of the most polluted.

Also on CityLab, the city of Memphis has launched Rapid Assessment Decision and Redirection (RADAR) program that steers non-emergency calls away from 911 services. As a part of the Smarter Cities Challenge, Memphis partnered with IBM to review 911 data in an effort to understand patterns among mistaken calls. Now, for weekday daytime calls that are very likely to be non-emergent in nature, Memphis partners with a faith-based organization, Resurrection Health, to keep residents away from the ER and send healthcare providers directly to them.

The Conversation analyzed the potential to use data science to combat human trafficking. Governments can use data to identify risk factors most associated with trafficking—including poverty, unemployment, migration, and escape from political conflict or war—and target prevention campaigns. Moreover, data on patterns of petty theft, purchases at retail outlets, peculiar uses of cash for purchases like hotel bookings, as well as social media data from trafficking advertisements can help law enforcement find victims and prosecute traffickers.