By Data-Smart City Solutions • September 22, 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 highlighted the MIT Urban Risk Lab’s Hurricane Irma Risk Map as a part of our Map Monday series. is a crowdsourced platform that displays real-time, street-by-street information on the status of flooding in affected areas. The tool allowed residents to submit flooding reports via messages with a chatbot on Twitter, Telegram, and Facebook, and then assigned city corridors one of four alert levels based on flood depth.

On the Better, Faster, Cheaper Blog for, Stephen Goldsmith and Jane Wiseman profiled Santa Monica, CA’s Well-being Project, a winner of the Bloomberg Philanthropies' inaugural Mayors Challenge. Using the results of a survey, publicly available social-media data, and city data, Santa Monica constructed a Well-being index that it will use to prioritize activities that improve people’s lives.

The Sunlight Foundation released a report titled A Guide to Tactical Data Engagement in an effort to increase the social impact of open government data. The report recommends that city governments make their open data programs more transparent, accountable and participatory. In order to encourage the public to engage with municipal open data, Sunlight provides a four step-process: find a focus area by observing the community, refine use cases by interviewing stakeholders, design a plan by coordinating with target users, and implement an intervention by collaborating with actual users.

Scottish data science research institution the Data Lab is teaming up with UNICEF in an effort to leverage data sharing in order to tackle childhood obesity.  The project hopes to use information on shopping habits, TV advertisements, online gaming, use of green spaces, and school lunch suppliers to predict, inform, and then help families and organizations that play an influential role in children’s lives.

According to GovTech, the U.S. Senate has passed the Open, Public, Electronic and Necessary (OPEN) Government Data Act, a bipartisan bill aimed at providing a government wide mandate requiring federal agencies to publish their information as open data. The act requires agencies to publish data in machine-readable formats with open licenses and builds on President Barack Obama’s May 2013 Open Data Policy, making portions of it permanent.

Stephen Goldsmith and Chris Bousquet co-authored an article for GovTech that analyzes the potential for gamification to engage residents in activities with social value, while simultaneously improving people’s relationship with government. Examples include a competition designed by Santiago, Chile that encourages children to exercise and eat healthily, a virtual reward system to inspire civic participation in Salem, MA, and a gamified state website in Hawaii that encourages users to access services online.

MIT Technology Review discussed the potential for governments to use blockchain in order to facilitate secure, unmediated transactions between unbanked residents like refugees. Finland has for two years given asylum seekers prepaid Mastercards instead of the traditional cash disbursements, linking the cards to a unique digital identity stored on a blockchain. In addition to eliminating the need for a traditional financial institution to mediate transactions, blockchains provide a means for creating and securely storing a digital form of identification that can’t be corrupted and is easily accessible from anywhere. 

The County of San Bernardino is seeking to use data to reduce stigma and discrimination around mental illness. By making data available that shows the prevalence of mental illness and how effective treatment facilities can be, governments can break down common stereotypes about and rally support for treatment programs. Read more at Route Fifty.