By Data-Smart City Solutions • February 24, 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, Brett Goldstein wrote about the need for governments to focus on producing value from all their data, rather than emphasizing only sleek, shiny projects. Often, a simple analysis of already available data can be tremendously valuable. To illustrate this, Goldstein includes his own analysis of financial data in two cities that takes five minutes and can flag anomalies to identify fraud.

Also on Data-Smart, Stephen Goldsmith held a Q&A with Illinois Chief Information Officer (CIO) Hardik Bhatt to discuss the state’s successful completion of a data sharing agreement. Important to the success of the agreement was buy-in from executive leadership and an ability to communicate the value of data to agency heads. The state has been diligent in developing infrastructure and security standards, while also creating 360-degree views so that the data will be accessible to all customers. 

Nesta published a paper examining how innovations in digital democracy have engaged new groups of people, empowered citizens, and forged new relationships between cities and local residents across Europe and beyond. The paper highlighted case studies like Brazil and France, where new tools are allowing citizens to contribute to drafting legislation. The paper emphasized the need for future technologies to focus on the specific needs of communities and better embed methods for evaluating their goals.

GovTech profiled San Francisco’s citywide benchmarking report, in which the city compared itself to 16 other peer cities on factors including livability, public health, social safety net, public safety, transportation, environment, economy and finance. In 2003, San Francisco created the Controller’s Office City Services Auditor Division (CSA) to offer independent analysis of municipal services in order to better understand the city’s performance. The city uses open data from 16 other municipalities and sends out surveys to see how it compares.

Statescoop wrote about San Diego’s initiative to create a sensor network that will use city street lights to deploy 3,200 sensors for air, traffic, and pedestrian safety monitoring. Each sensor can report data anonymously and in real time, and the sensor information will be used for open data and in city apps for tasks like directing drivers to open parking spots, providing first responders with intel during emergencies, and tracking carbon emissions.

StateScoop also discussed Aurora, CO’s implementation of a digital mapping tool created by Esri called Survey123 that helps track the city’s homeless population. The tool is a mobile application that allowed volunteers to collect data about where individuals were living, in addition to information on age and social demographics. Surveyors then pinned sites on a map, giving the city a much more accurate picture of its homeless population.

CityLab examined cities’ use of algorithms to predict gentrification in order to understand where to preserve existing affordable housing, where to build more, and where to attract business investment ahead of time. Researchers from University of Pennsylvania and the Center for Community Progress have developed algorithms that predict the movement of housing markets using Census data. Analyzing gentrification trends from 1990 to 2010, the algorithm has projected gentrification in 29 cities into 2020.

GCN discussed the decision of twenty new jurisdictions to join the Safety and Justice Challenge, an initiative to reduce over-incarceration and address racial and ethnic justice disparities through criminal justice reform. The challenge is a $100 million initiative of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and seeks to tackle issues including gender-responsive risk and needs assessment, culture-based case management, and recidivism reduction. Many of the initiatives use technology to reduce jail use and reduce racial and ethnic disparities, like an automated notification system to prevent failure-to-appear warrants and arrests in Durham County, N.C.

Route Fifty profiled Miami’s efforts to map the vulnerability of its critical infrastructure in order to understand the increased flood risks associated with sea-level rise. Miami-Dade County provided Miami with Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data collected by a plane that flies a pulsed radar over areas to establish altitude points, collect building and spatial data, and establish a 3-D map of the county. Using this data, the city can project areas threatened by sea-level rise as far off as 2060. The city hopes that this mapping effort will inform changes in building codes and help prioritize infrastructure for investment.