By Data-Smart City Solutions • March 10, 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, Jonathon Jay discussed cities’ use of algorithms to predict house fires and conducted his own analysis to rank every address in Baton Rouge, LA according to fire risk. Cities have taken a number of steps to better predict and prevent fires, including updating their lists of commercial properties and tracking how data like building size, condition, location, and age have contributed to past fires. The most successful of these efforts was Atlanta’s Firebird model, which successfully predicted 71% of fires and found that variables reflecting the number of occupants were the strongest predictors.

Also on Data-Smart, Craig Campbell outlined the history of New York City’s open data legislation following the fifth anniversary of New York’s Open Data Law. New York’s open data agenda is unique in that the city has consistently integrated user-centered design into its open data efforts and has codified open data as law. To celebrate this anniversary, the city’s data team announced new website, new data literacy pilot, and an inaugural Open Data Week.

Stephen Goldsmith and Katherine Hillenbrand also wrote a piece on Data-Smart highlighting prerequisites for civic analytics projects that the Johns Hopkins' Center for Government Excellence (GovEx) uses to evaluate potential partners for What Works Cities. The criteria include the presence of a clear challenge for which data and analysis can add value, enthusiasm and support from top officials, existing data infrastructure, and a plan for scale.  

CityLab profiled the development of Baltimore’s blight prediction tool, for which the city has recruited astrophysics researchers to use publicly-available data and GIS technology to create a database of the city’s housing stock. These researchers will use the same strategies they use when attempting to map the universe, using evidence from the past to predict the present. The tool will use data including water, gas, and electricity usage, postal delivery, and potentially cellphone use to determine those buildings likely to be abandoned.

Next City examined Philadelphia’s Vision Zero Plan, a data-driven campaign to eliminate traffic deaths that has also been adopted in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. The city’s blueprint calls for a data-gathering effort to assess high injury networks and dangerous behaviors in order to target investment. The program also seeks to combat inequities in traffic fatalities, prioritizing places in greatest need of traffic safety improvements, particularly low-income neighborhoods.  

Civic Hall discussed the need to be aware of information inequities when implementing civic tech initiatives. For example, LoveLand Technologies has created a map of public property data in an effort to encourage residents to buy foreclosed properties, which may disadvantage residents whose properties have been foreclosed upon but who want to buy them back at auction. In many cases, these residents do not have the resources nor the information savvy to use these tools like Loveland, and therefore cannot compete with enterprises who want to buy their properties. When pursuing open data initiatives, it is therefore important that cities keep an eye on fairness and reasonableness, monitoring byproducts like speculation.  

StateTech Magazine developed a list of five ways that states can secure their citizens’ data in order to garner trust and create a culture of security. The recommendations included hiring a chief privacy officer to assess your security standing, encouraging stronger identity authentication, creating a coordinated data management strategy, looking to best practices in cloud adoption, and making secure mobile technology a priority.

LinkedIn announced that it is partnering with the National League of Cities and the Kresge Foundation to help strengthen six cities’ economies by ensuring access to higher education and employment. LinkedIn will provide data-driven insights such as whether hiring is up or down, which skills workers have and employers need, and how many people are moving in and out of cities and what their skills are. LinkedIn will share the outcomes of its work in these six cities—Austin, Charleston, Corpus Christi, TX, Houston, Jacksonville, and Nashville—to help other cities explore sustainable solutions.