Platform Urbanism: Negotiating Platform Ecosystems in Connected Cities

Book by Sarah Barns: “This book reflects on what it means to live as urban citizens in a world increasingly shaped by the business and organisational logics of digital platforms. Where smart city strategies promote the roll-out of internet of things (IoT) technologies and big data analytics by city governments worldwide, platform urbanism responds to the deep and pervasive entanglements that exist between urban citizens, city services and platform ecosystems today.    

Recent years have witnessed a backlash against major global platforms, evidenced by burgeoning literatures on platform capitalism, the platform society, platform surveillance and platform governance, as well as regulatory attention towards the market power of platforms in their dominance of global data infrastructure.  

This book responds to these developments and asks: How do platform ecosystems reshape connected cities? How do urban researchers and policy makers respond to the logics of platform ecosystems and platform intermediation? What sorts of multisensory urban engagements are rendered through platform interfaces and modalities? And what sorts of governance challenges and responses are needed to cultivate and champion the digital public spaces of our connected lives….(More)”.

Mayor de Blasio Signs Executive Order to Establish Algorithms Management and Policy Officer

Press release: “Mayor Bill de Blasio today signed an Executive Order to establish an Algorithms Management and Policy Officer within the Mayor’s Office of Operations. The Officer will serve as a centralized resource on algorithm policy and develop guidelines and best practices to assist City agencies in their use of algorithms to make decisions. The new Officer will ensure relevant algorithms used by the City to deliver services promote equity, fairness and accountability. The creation of the position follows review of the recommendations from the Automated Decision Systems (ADS) Task Force Report required by Local Law 49 of 2018, published here.

“Fairness and equity are central to improving the lives of New Yorkers,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.“With every new technology comes added responsibility, and I look forward to welcoming an Algorithms Management and Policy Officer to my team to ensure the tools we use to make decisions are fair and transparent.”…

The Algorithms Management and Policy Officer will develop guidelines and best practices to assist City agencies in their use of tools or systems that rely on algorithms and related technologies to support decision-making. As part of that effort, the Officer and their personnel support will develop processes for agency reporting and provide resources that will help the public learn more about how New York City government uses algorithms to make decisions and deliver services….(More)”.

Citizen Engagement in Energy Efficiency Retrofit of Public Housing Buildings: A Lisbon Case Study

Paper by Catarina Rolim and Ricardo Gomes: “In Portugal, there are about 120 thousand social housing and a large share of them are in need of some kind of rehabilitation. Alongside the technical challenge associated with the retrofit measures implementation, there is the challenge of involving the citizens in adopting more energy conscious behaviors. Within the Sharing Cities project and, specifically in the case of social housing retrofit, engagement activities with the tenants are being promoted, along with participation from city representatives, decision makers, stakeholders, and among others. This paper will present a methodology outlined to evaluate the impact of retrofit measures considering the citizen as a crucial retrofit stakeholder. The approach ranges from technical analysis and data monitoring but also conveys activities such as educational and training sessions, interviews, surveys, workshops, public events, and focus groups. These will be conducted during the different stages of project implementation; the definition process, during deployment and beyond deployment of solutions….(More)”.

City Innovation

Report and interactive map by CityLab, Bloomberg Philanthropies and the OECD: “New Innovation helps local governments create an ecosystem that promotes experimentation and creativity to improve the public welfare of residents in cities around the world.

City governments are ushering in a new era of local public sector innovation that promotes experimentation and flexibility, and also takes into account the social needs of citizens to manage evolving urban systems. The goal of this report is to understand how municipalities can enhance their ability to use innovation to deliver better results for their residents….

This site identifies and shares how cities around the world are investing in innovation, to ensure they’re constantly assessing and improving how they’re tackling problems and improving the lives of residents. This map is based on an initial survey of cities in OECD and non-OECD countries. The city information reflects data gathered from the city administration at the time of the survey….(More)”

Type, tweet, tap, and pass: How smart city technology is creating a transactional citizen

Paper by Peter A.Johnson, Pamela J.Robinson, andSimonePhilpot: “In the current push for smart city programs around the world, there is a significant focus on enabling transactions between citizen and government. Though traditionally there have always been transactional elements between government and citizen, for example payment of taxes in exchange for services, or voting in exchange for representation, the rise of modern smartphone and smart city technologies have further enabled micro-transactions between citizen, government, and information broker. We conceptualize how the modern smart city, as both envisaged and enacted, incorporates the citizen not necessarily as a whole actor, but as a series of micro-transactions encoded on the real-time landscape of the city. This transactional citizen becomes counted by smart city sensors and integrated into smart city decision-making through the use of certain preferred platforms.

To approach this shift from traditional forms of citizen/city interaction towards micro-transactions, we conceptualize four broad modes of transaction; type (intentional contribution), tweet (intermediated by third party), tap (convened or requested transaction), and pass (ambient transaction based on movement). These four modes are used to frame critical questions of how citizens interact with government in the emerging age of the smart city, and how these interactions impact the relationship between citizen and government, introducing new avenues for private sector influence….(More)”

Waze launches data-sharing integration for cities with Google Cloud

Ryan Johnston at StateScoop: “Thousands of cities across the world that rely on externally-sourced traffic data from Waze, the route-finding mobile app, will now have access to the data through the Google Cloud suite of analytics tools instead of a raw feed, making it easier for city transportation and planning officials to reach data-driven decisions. 

Waze said Tuesday that the anonymized data is now available through Google Cloud, with the goal of making curbside management, roadway maintenance and transit investment easier for small to midsize cities that don’t have the resources to invest in enterprise data-analytics platforms of their own. Since 2014, Waze — which became a Google subsidiary in 2013 — has submitted traffic data to its partner cities through its “Waze for Cities” program, but those data sets arrived in raw feeds without any built-in analysis or insights.

While some cities have built their own analysis tools to understand the free data from the company, others have struggled to stay afloat in the sea of data, said Dani Simons, Waze’s head of public sector partnerships.

“[What] we’ve realized is providing the data itself isn’t enough for our city partners or for a lot of our city and state partners,” Simons said. “We have been asked over time for better ways to analyze and turn that raw data into something more actionable for our public partners, and that’s why we’re doing this.”

The data will now arrive automatically integrated with Google’s free data analysis tool, BigQuery, and a visualization tool, Data Studio. Cities can use the tools to analyze up to a terabyte of data and store up to 10 gigabytes a month for free, but they can also choose to continue to use in-house analysis tools, Simons said. 

The integration was also designed with input from Waze’s top partner cities, including Los Angeles; Seattle; and San Jose, California. One of Waze’s private sector partners, Genesis Pulse, which designs software for emergency responders, reported that Waze users identified 40 percent of roadside accidents an average of 4.5 minutes before those incidents were reported to 911 or public safety.

The integration is Waze’s attempt at solving two of the biggest data problems that cities have today, Simons told StateScoop. For some cities in the U.S., Waze is one of the several private companies sharing transit data with them. Other cities are drowning in data from traffic sensors, city-owned fleets data or private mobility companies….(More)”.

From smart to rebel city? Worlding, provincialising and the Barcelona Model

Paper by Greig Charnock, Hug March, Ramon Ribera-Fumaz: “This article examines the evolution of the ‘Barcelona Model’ of urban transformation through the lenses of worlding and provincialising urbanism. We trace this evolution from an especially dogmatic worlding vision of the smart city, under a centre-right city council, to its radical repurposing under the auspices of a municipal government led, after May 2015, by the citizens’ platform Barcelona en Comú. We pay particular attention to the new council’s objectives to harness digital platform technologies to enhance participative democracy, and its agenda to secure technological sovereignty and digital rights for its citizens. While stressing the progressive intent of these aims, we also acknowledge the challenge of going beyond the repurposing of smart technologies so as to engender new and radical forms of subjectivity among citizens themselves; a necessary basis for any urban revolution….(More)”.

Urban Slums in a Datafying Milieu: Challenges for Data-Driven Research Practice

Paper by Bijal Brahmbhatt et al: “With the ongoing trend of urban datafication and growing use of data/evidence to shape developmental initiatives by state as well as non-state actors, this exploratory case study engages with the complex and often contested domains of data use. This study uses on-the-ground experience of working with informal settlements in Indian cities to examine how information value chains work in practice and the contours of their power to intervene in building an agenda of social justice into governance regimes. Using illustrative examples from ongoing action-oriented projects of Mahila Housing Trust in India such as the Energy Audit Project, Slum Mapping Exercise and women-led climate resilience building under the Global Resilience Partnership, it raises questions about challenges of making effective linkages between data, knowledge and action in and for slum communities in the global South by focussing on two issues.

First, it reveals dilemmas of achieving data accuracy when working with slum communities in developing cities where populations are dynamically changing, and where digitisation and use of ICT has limited operational currency. The second issue focuses on data ownership. It foregrounds the need for complementary inputs and the heavy requirement for support systems in informal settlements in order to translate data-driven knowledge into actionable forms. Absence of these will blunt the edge of data-driven community participation in local politics. Through these intersecting streams, the study attempts to address how entanglements between southern urbanism, datafication, governance and social justice diversify the discourse on data justice. It highlights existing hurdles and structural hierarchies within a data-heavy developmental register emergent across multiple cities in the global South where data-driven governmental regimes interact with convoluted urban forms and realities….(More)”.

The Urban Institute Data Catalog

Data@Urban: “We believe that data make the biggest impact when they are accessible to everyone.

Today, we are excited to announce the public launch of the Urban Institute Data Catalog, a place to discover, learn about, and download open data provided by Urban Institute researchers and data scientists. You can find data that reflect the breadth of Urban’s expertise — health, education, the workforce, nonprofits, local government finances, and so much more.

Built using open source technology, the catalog holds valuable data and metadata that Urban Institute staff have created, enhanced, cleaned, or otherwise added value to as part of our work. And it will provide, for the first time, a central, searchable resource to find many of Urban’s published open data assets.

We hope that researchers, data analysts, civic tech actors, application developers, and many others will use this tool to enhance their work, save time, and generate insights that elevate the policy debate. As Urban produces data for research, analysis, and data visualization, and as new data are released, we will continue to update the catalog.

We’re thrilled to put the power of data in your hands to better understand and respond to many critical issues facing us locally and nationally. If you have comments about the tool or the data it contains, or if you would like to share examples of how you are using these data, please feel free to contact us at

Here are some current highlights of the Urban Data Catalog — both the data and research products we’ve built using the data — as of this writing:

– LODES data: The Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics Origin-Destination Employment Statistics (LODES) from the US Census Bureau provide detailed information on workers and jobs by census block. We have summarized these large, dispersed data into a set of census tract and census place datasets to make them easier to use. For more information, read our earlier Data@Urban blog post.

– Medicaid opioid data: Our Medicaid Spending and Prescriptions for the Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder and Opioid Overdose dataset is sourced from state drug utilization data and provides breakdowns by state, year, quarter, drug type, and brand name or generic drug status. For more information and to view our data visualization using the data, see the complete project page.

– Nonprofit and foundation data: Members of Urban’s National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) compile, clean, and standardize data from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on organizations filing IRS forms 990 or 990-EZ, including private charities, foundations, and other tax-exempt organizations. To read more about these data, see our previous blog posts on redesigning our Nonprofit Sector in Brief Report in R and repurposing our open code and data to create your own custom summary tables….(More)”.

Lessons Learned for New Office of Innovation

Blog by Catherine Tkachyk: “I have worked in a government innovation office for the last eight years in four different roles and two different communities.  In that time, I’ve had numerous conversations on what works and doesn’t work for innovation in local government.  Here’s what I’ve learned: starting an innovation office in government is hard.  That is not a complaint, I love the work I do, but it comes with its own challenges.  When you think about many of the services government provides: Police; Fire; Health and Human Services; Information Technology; Human Resources; Finance; etc. very few people question whether government should provide those services.  They may question how they are provided, who is providing them, or how much they cost, but they don’t question the service.  That’s not true for innovation offices.  One of the first questions I can get from people when they hear what I do is, “Why does government need an Office of Innovation.”  My first answer is, “Do you like how government works?  If not, then maybe there should be a group of people focused on fixing it.” 

Over my career, I have come across a few lessons on how to start up an innovation office to give you the best chance for success. Some of these lessons come from listening to others, but many (probably too many) come from my own mistakes….(More)”.