By Data-Smart City Solutions • February 3, 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, Craig Campbell pointed to Copenhagen’s City Data Exchange as a model for cities interested in helping private companies monetize their data. On this platform, created by Hitachi with $1.2 million in development capital from the city, startups, academic researchers, and established industry data consumers can sell data to one another in a transparent way. While the database currently only contains around 2 gigabytes of data, the city hopes it will spur third-party data innovation and increase the value of open data.

Also on Data-Smart, Civic Analytics Network Fellow Blake Valenta profiled San Francisco’s Data Academy, a training program that teaches city employees to think, manage, and communicate with data. Started in 2015 by DataSF and the Controller’s office, the program leverages data leaders from within city agencies to teach short two- to three-hour workshops on such topics as Excel, Tableau, data usability, and information design. Thanks to such courses, city departments have improved interdepartmental collaboration and produced a number of deliverables, for example the campaign finance dashboards created by the Ethics Commission. Data Academy has garnered huge demand, and in 2017 the city hopes to increase capacity and improve the evaluation process for courses.

We also updated our Catalog of Civic Data Use Cases, a list of questions that can be addressed using advanced data and analysis techniques and examples of how cities have resolved these questions. This update broached questions of how to reduce the number of traffic accidents, how to determine businesses that have over-occupancy issues, and how to monitor the flow of marijuana across states where it’s been legalized. 

Jane Wiseman’s paper “Lessons from Leading CDOs: A Framework for Better Civic Analytics” received coverage in GovTech, NextCity, StateScoop, and other publications. The paper provides an operational framework for cities interested in creating a Chief Data Officer (CDO) position, drawing on best practices from the Ash Center’s Civic Analytics Network (CAN) and other data offices.

The Governance Lab at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering announced the launch of the Data Justice Network, a website fostering peer-to-peer learning among criminal justice practitioners and policymakers. On the platform, users can search for colleagues with relevant experience as well as ask and answer questions about using data to reduce incarceration and crime. The Governance Lab hopes that the website will galvanize better data collection and sharing practices in city governments.

Wired wrote about the potential to use blockchain—a tool that keeps secure data in a distributed, encrypted ledger—to move and protect patients’ medical data. Blockchain has immense security benefits, because instead of having one administrator as a gatekeeper to the data, the ledger is spread across a network of databases visible to those with access. What this means is that hacking one block in the chain is impossible without hacking every block. Adopting blockchain would allow healthcare providers to store a patient’s every healthcare interaction in a ledger that every provider can see, making data sharing seamless. 

The New York Times examined uses of predictive analytics to identify students at the greatest risk of dropping out of college. Many schools have found that performance in foundational courses that prepare students for higher-level work in a major is a principal determinant of dropout rates. For example, at Georgia State University, fewer than 10 percent of nursing students with a C in math graduated, while performance in introductory nursing classes had little to do with graduation rates. Colleges and universities hope to use these types of insights to identify students at risk of dropping out and provide support in order to improve the American college graduation rate of less than 50 percent.

Next City profiled an application that helps connect minority entrepreneurs to work opportunities. The app, called MWBE Connect NY, attempts to connect minority- and women-owned business enterprises (MWBEs) with RFPs in New York City. The creators hope to reverse New York’s poor record with MWBEs—in 2016 only 4.8 percent of New York’s procurement contracts went to minority- or women-owned businesses. Users can buy a subscription that provides information on contracting opportunities from the city and state, updated daily, and filters opportunities based on the user’s profile.