Data-Smart City Solutions


Press Release: “Today the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School announced the launch of Data-Smart City Solutions, a new initiative aimed at using big data and analytics to transform the way local government operates. Bringing together leading industry, academic, and government officials, the initiative will offer city leaders a national depository of cases and best practice examples where cities and private partners use analytics to solve city problems. Data-Smart City Solutions is funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Data-Smart City Solutions highlights best practices, curates resources, and supports cities embarking on new data projects. The initiative’s website contains feature-length articles on how data drives innovation in different policy areas, profile pieces on municipal leaders at the forefront of implementing data analytics in their cities, and resources for interested officials to begin data projects in their own communities.
Recent articles include an assessment of Boston’s Adopt-a-Hydrant program as a potential harbinger of future city work promoting civic engagement and infrastructure maintenance, and a feature on how predictive technology is transforming police work. The site also spotlights municipal use of data such as San Francisco’s efforts to integrate data from different social service departments to better identify and serve at-risk youth. In addition to visiting the initiative’s website, Data-Smart City Solutions’ work is chronicled in their newsletter as well as on their Twitter page.”

5 Lessons from Gov 2.0


in GovTech: “Although government 2.0 has been around since Bill Eggers’ 2005 book Government 2.0, the term truly took over in 2008. After President Barack Obama’s 2008 election, his first memorandum in office was the Open Government Directive with its three pillars of creating a more transparent, participatory and collaborative government. This framework quickly spread from federal government down to state and local government and across the nation.
So fast-forward five years and let’s ask what have we learned.
1. It’s about mission problems…
2. It’s about sustainability…
3. It’s about human capital…
4. It’s not static…
5. It’s more than open data…
Overall, a lot of progress has been made in five years. Besides the items above, it’s a cultural and mindset shift that we are seeing grow throughout government each year. Individuals and agencies are focusing on how to make important systemic change with new technology and approaches to improve government”

Colab: Winner of the 2013 AppMyCity! Prize


CaptureAtlantic Cities: “Colab, a Brazilian mobile application designed to encourage better citizenship, is the winner of the 2013 AppMyCity! Prize for the year’s best urban app.
The app’s five founders, Bruno Aracaty, Gustavo Maia, Paulo Pandolfi, Josemando Sobral and Vitor Guedes, from Recife and São Paulo, claimed the $5,000 prize last week at the annual New Cities Summit in São Paulo. Colab competed against two other finalists, BuzzJourney, from Kfar-Saba, Israel, and PublicStuff, from New York City. All three finalists presented their project to the international audience at the New Cities Summit. The audience then voted to determine the winner.
Colab utilizes photos and geolocation to connect citizens to cities based on three pillars of interaction: reporting daily urban issues; elaborating on and proposing new projects and solutions; and evaluating public services….
In total, the New Cities Foundation received 98 submissions for the AppMyCity! Prize 2013. A panel of judges chose the finalists out of ten semi-finalists, based on ability to create widespread impact and helpful user interface”

The five elements of an open source city


Jason Hibbets in Open Source.com: “How can you apply the concepts of open source to a living, breathing city? An open source city is a blend of open culture, open government policies, and economic development. I derived these characteristics based on my experiences and while writing my book, The foundation for an open source city.  Characteristics such as collaboration, participation, transparency, rapid prototyping, and many others can be applied to any city that wants to create an open source culture. Let’s take a look at these characteristics in more detail.

Five characteristics of an open source city

  1. Fostering a culture of citizen participation
  2. Having an effective open government policy
  3. Having an effective open data initiative
  4. Promoting open source user groups and conferences
  5. Being a hub for innovation and open source businesses

In my book, I take a look at how these five principles are being actively applied in Raleigh, North Carolina. I also incorporate other experiences from my open government adventures such as CityCamps and my first Code for America Summit. Although Raleigh is the case study, the book is a guide for how cities across the country, and world, can implement the open source city brand.”

Checkbook NYC advances civic open source


Karl Fogel at OpenSource.com: “New York City Comptroller John Liu is about to do something we need to see more often in government. This week, his office is open sourcing the code behind Checkbook NYC, the citywide financial transparency site—but the open-sourcing itself is not what I’m referring to. After all, lots of governments open source code these days.
Checkbook NYCRather, the release of the Checkbook NYC code, planned for this Thursday, is significant because of a larger initiative that accompanies it. Long before the code release, the Comptroller’s Office started a serious planning process to ensure that the code could be easily adopted by other municipalities, supported by other vendors, and eventually become a long-term multi-stakeholder project—in other words, the very model that advocates of civic open source always cheer for but only rarely see happen in practice.
I have no knowledge (and do not claim) that this is the first instance of a government agency doing such long-range planning for an open source release. But it will at least be an important instance: CheckbookNYC.com is the main financial transparency site for the largest city in the United States, a city with an annual budget of $70 billion. Giving other cities a chance to offer the same user interface and API support, at a fraction of what it would have cost to build it themselves, is already good news. But it’s even more important to show that the project is a safe long-term bet, both for those considering adoption and those considering participation in development.”

First, they gave us targeted ads. Now, data scientists think they can change the world


in Gigaom: “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads … That sucks.” – Jeff Hammerbacher, co-founder and chief scientist, Cloudera
Well, something has to pay the bills. Thankfully, there’s also a sweeping trend in the data science world right now around bringing those skills to bear on some really meaningful problems, …
We’ve already covered some of these efforts, including the SumAll Foundation’s work on modern-day slavery and future work on child pornography. Closely related is the effort — led by Google.org’s deep pockets — to create an international hotline network for reporting human trafficking and collecting data. Microsoft, in particular Microsoft Research’s danah boyd, has been active in helping fight child exploitation using technology.
This week, I came across two new efforts on different ends of the spectrum. One is ActivityInfo, which describes itself on its website as “an online humanitarian project monitoring tool” — developed by Unicef and a consulting firm called BeDataDriven — that “helps humanitarian organizations to collect, manage, map and analyze indicators….
The other effort I came across is DataKind, specifically its work helping the New York City Department of Parks and Recreations, or NYC Parks, quantify the benefits of a strategic tree-pruning program. Founded by renowned data scientists Drew Conway and Jake Porway (who’s also the host of the National Geographic channel’s The Numbers Game), DataKind exists for the sole purpose of helping non-profit organizations and small government agencies solve their most-pressing data problems.”

OECD: Open Government – Data Towards Empirical Analysis of Open Government Data Initiatives


OECDiLibrary: “Open Government Data (OGD) initiatives, and in particular the development of OGD portals, have proliferated since the mid-2000s both at central and local government levels in OECD and non OECD countries. Understanding the preconditions that enable the efficient and effective implementation of these initiatives is essential for achieving their overall objectives. This is especially true in terms of the role played by OGD in relation to Open Government policies in general.
This paper highlights the main principles, concepts and criteria framing open government data initiatives and the issues challenging their implementation. It underlines the opportunities that OGD and data analytics may offer policy makers, while providing a note of caution on the challenges this agenda poses for the public sector.
Finally, the overall analysis of key concepts and issues aims to pave the way for an empirical analysis of OGD initiatives. So far, little has been done to analyse and prove the impact and accrued value of these initiatives. The paper suggests a methodology comprising an analytical framework for OGD initiatives (to be applied to ex post and ex ante analysis of initiatives) and a related set of data to be collected across OECD countries. The application of the analytical framework and the collection of data would enable the acquisition of a solid body of evidence that could ultimately lead to mapping initiatives across OECD countries (i.e. a typography of initiatives) and developing a common set of metrics to consistently assess impact and value creation within and across countries.”

Techs and the City


Alec Appelbaum, who teaches at Pratt Institute in The New York Times: “THIS spring New York City is rolling out its much-ballyhooed bike-sharing program, which relies on a sophisticated set of smartphone apps and other digital tools to manage it. The city isn’t alone: across the country, municipalities are buying ever more complicated technological “solutions” for urban life.

But higher tech is not always essential tech. Cities could instead be making savvier investments in cheaper technology that may work better to stoke civic involvement than the more complicated, expensive products being peddled by information-technology developers….

To be sure, big tech can zap some city weaknesses. According to I.B.M., its predictive-analysis technology, which examines historical data to estimate the next crime hot spots, has helped Memphis lower its violent crime rate by 30 percent.

But many problems require a decidedly different approach. Take the seven-acre site in Lower Manhattan called the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, where 1,000 mixed-income apartments are set to rise. A working-class neighborhood that fell to bulldozers in 1969, it stayed bare as co-ops nearby filled with affluent families, including my own.

In 2010, with the city ready to invite developers to bid for the site, long-simmering tensions between nearby public-housing tenants and wealthier dwellers like me turned suddenly — well, civil.

What changed? Was it some multimillion-dollar “open democracy” platform from Cisco, or a Big Data program to suss out the community’s real priorities? Nope. According to Dominic Pisciotta Berg, then the chairman of the local community board, it was plain old e-mail, and the dialogue it facilitated. “We simply set up an e-mail box dedicated to receiving e-mail comments” on the renewal project, and organizers would then “pull them together by comment type and then consolidate them for display during the meetings,” he said. “So those who couldn’t be there had their voices considered and those who were there could see them up on a screen and adopted, modified or rejected.”

Through e-mail conversations, neighbors articulated priorities — permanently affordable homes, a movie theater, protections for small merchants — that even a supercomputer wouldn’t necessarily have identified in the data.

The point is not that software is useless. But like anything else in a city, it’s only as useful as its ability to facilitate the messy clash of real human beings and their myriad interests and opinions. And often, it’s the simpler software, the technology that merely puts people in contact and steps out of the way, that works best.”

Cities must do more with data than ‘crowdsource pothole locations’


Technically: “Using data from citizen-powered mobile and web apps has become such a clear best practice for city governments, that a new question was the focus at the 7th annual Mayors’ Innovation Summit held in Philadelphia last week. What’s next?…

When it comes to moving the civic technology movement forward, the consensus was twofold: we need to continue reaching out to new user bases and seeking better ways to make sense of the data we’re collecting. (A similar need for deeper goals also came out of a civic innovation panel)

“We’re going to have to get better as cities at processing all of this info,” said Mesa, Ariz. Mayor Scott Smith, whose iMesa application invites ideas from citizens for how to make Mesa a better place to live. He reported the app is already becoming overloaded with data, in his words “a great problem to have.”

100 Urban Trends


A Glossary of Ideas from the BMW Guggenheim Lab—New York, Berlin, and Mumbai : “Over the past two years, the BMW Guggenheim Lab, a mobile urban laboratory centered around the topic of life in cities today, has offered free programs and workshops and implemented urban projects in New York City (August 3–October 16, 2011), Berlin (June 15–July 29, 2012), and Mumbai (December 9–January 20, 2013). Created as a resource, 100 Urban Trends aims to identify the most talked-about trends in urban thinking, as they were discussed in these three venues. Each individual glossary offers 100 contextualized definitions that apply to the way we understand, design, and live in cities.
Integral to 100 Urban Trends is the concept of cities as “idea makers.” In cities, people come together, share their thoughts and common interests, and generate the ideas that shape our world. Dense, growing cities have been and continue to be the catalyst for human progress, powered by daily proximity among their citizens as much as anything else. Despite some of the drawbacks of such massive urban centers, they may well embody the future for human life. Today’s cities are competing to attract more people; greater urban density can mean more conflict, but it can also produce a greater diversity of viewpoints and more opportunity for positive change.
In recent years, there has been an unequivocal shift in the study of cities. Urban thinking, whether related to architecture or urbanism, has become dramatically less focused on infrastructure, and more on the ultimate goal and reason for the existence of cities — that is, the well-being of the people that inhabit them and constitute their very soul and essence. “Cluster,” “concentrate,” and “collaborate” seem to have become the three big Cs of urban thinking of late — but that story is not new. Clustering, searching for a concentration of people, and finding ways to collaborate have been part of the human experience since prehistoric times. Then, as now, people gathered in search of protection, conviviality, and exchange.”