Urban Development and the State of Open Data

Chapter by Stefaan G. Verhulst and Sampriti Saxena: “Nearly 4.4 billion people, or about 55% of the world’s population, lived in cities in 2018. By 2045, this number is anticipated to grow to 6 billion. Such level of growth requires innovative and targeted urban solutions. By more effectively leveraging open data, cities can meet the needs of an ever-growing population in an effective and sustainable manner. This paper updates the previous contribution by Jean-Noé Landry, titled “Open Data and Urban Development” in the 2019 edition of The State of Open Data. It also aims to contribute to a further deepening of the Third Wave of Open Data, which highlights the significance of open data at the subnational level as a more direct and immediate response to the on-the-ground needs of citizens. It considers recent developments in how the use of, and approach to, open data has evolved within an urban development context. It seeks to discuss emerging applications of open data in cities, recent developments in open data infrastructure, governance and policies related to open data, and the future outlook of the role of open data in urbanization…(More)”.

Connectedness, Resilience and Empowerment

Book edited by Daniel Muia, and Rhonda Phillips: “This book discusses how aspects of connectedness, resilience and empowerment are intertwined in community development processes. It explicitly brings together these elements in the context of community development and well-being, helping foster an understanding of how each influences the other. With chapters contributed by scholars from around the globe, this volume provides insights into how these elements of community influence and support the quality of life of communities. While several of the chapters address the foundational and theoretical bases of community development as well as community well-being, others address topical and emergent areas of interest in community development practice and scholarship. Underscoring the chapters is an awareness of the importance of the community spirit, which is the voice and agency of people coming together to encourage social transformation. A key element of the book is also to help foster change for the better in communities. This book is of interest to researchers and professionals working in the area of community engagement and development, particularly those in resource-poor countries…(More)”.

NYC Releases Plan to Embrace AI, and Regulate It

Article by Sarah Holder: “New York City Mayor Eric Adams unveiled a plan for adopting and regulating artificial intelligence on Monday, highlighting the technology’s potential to “improve services and processes across our government” while acknowledging the risks.

The city also announced it is piloting an AI chatbot to answer questions about opening or operating a business through its website MyCity Business.

NYC agencies have reported using more than 30 tools that fit the city’s definition of algorithmic technology, including to match students with public schools, to track foodborne illness outbreaks and to analyze crime patterns. As the technology gets more advanced, and the implications of algorithmic bias, misinformation and privacy concerns become more apparent, the city plans to set policy around new and existing applications…

New York’s strategy, developed by the Office of Technology and Innovation with the input of city agency representatives and outside technology policy experts, doesn’t itself establish any rules and regulations around AI, but lays out a timeline and blueprint for creating them. It emphasizes the need for education and buy-in both from New York constituents and city employees. Within the next year, the city plans to start to hold listening sessions with the public, and brief city agencies on how and why to use AI in their daily operations. The city has also given itself a year to start work on piloting new AI tools, and two to create standards for AI contracts….

Stefaan Verhulst, a research professor at New York University and the co-founder of The GovLab, says that especially during a budget crunch, leaning on AI offers cities opportunities to make evidence-based decisions quickly and with fewer resources. Among the potential use cases he cited are identifying areas most in need of affordable housing, and responding to public health emergencies with data…(More) (Full plan)”.

Five types of urban digital twins

Blog by Darrel Ronald: “The definition for urban digital twins is too vague — so it is important to create a clearer picture of the types of urban digital twins that are available. Not all digital twins are the same and each one comes with features and capabilities, strengths and weakness, as well as appropriate and inappropriate use cases….

Darrel Ronald
Urban Twin taxonomy, Source: Darrel Ronald, Spatiomatics

As shown in my proposed Urban Digital Twin Taxonomy above, I propose that we classify these products first based on their Main Functionality (the Use Case), then based on their Technology Platform. I highlight some of main products within the different categories and their product scope. Next, I detail the different types of twins and offer some brief strengths and weaknesses for each type. This taxonomy could apply to other industries such as architecture or manufacturing, but it is specifically applied to cities and urban development projects.

The main functionalities can be grouped by:

  • Modelling Twin
  • Computational Twin
  • Scenario Twin
  • Operational Twin
  • Experiential Twin

The technology platforms can be grouped by:

  • Computer Aided Design (CAD)
  • Web GIS
  • Geographic Information System (GIS)
  • Gaming…(More)”.

Citizens’ Assemblies in Los Angeles Could Be The Art Of The Possible

Article by Susana F. Molina: “At the end of his career, the physician and playwright Wayne Liebman has painstakingly entered a strategic race to advocate for citizens’ assemblies – “throwing spaghetti to the wall, and waiting to see what sticks. If something sticks, it’s where I go” as he describes it. His frequent use of metaphors filled a spirited conversation over Zoom last week.

Liebman hadn’t been an activist to his core – the last time he was that active was during the anti-war movement – but the 2016 election left him with no other choice, he says. He retired from medicine and became a full-time activist. Nothing that he had anticipated. 

He began to get involved, in a partisan way, to help regain some political power, at least, in Congress. But, in the midst of the storming of the US capitol, “as I felt like I had thrown a ladder at the castle wall,” he continues, “what I realized is that I have thrown it to the wrong wall.” Liebman’s deep exposure to elections and politicians made him realize that he couldn’t trust the system anymore, “in fact it was the system that had gotten us to the point where we were at,” he says.

According to RepresentUs, America’s leading anti-corruption organization, only 4% of Americans currently have a great deal of confidence in Congress. Significantly, a growing number of democracy advocate organizations are sprouting out around the country to fix, what they call, a broken political system. “Unfortunately what they mean by that, is to try to fix how elections work,” says Liebman. “But this is like lipstick on a pig.” Australia has already instituted all kinds of reforms and still Australians are completely dissatisfied with how politicians run their country.

Liebman started to read about direct democracy, citizens’ assemblies and lottery selected panels. While in representative democracies like in the US people vote for representatives who execute policies and laws, direct democracy models allocate more power to people because they include citizens’ recommendations into the policy-making decision process.

“I quickly became a convert,” he admits. In 2020 Liebman founded the nonpartisan nonprofit organization Public Access Democracy in Los Angeles to educate the public about democratic lotteries and advocate for the implementation of citizens’ assemblies. Currently, one minute at the microphone at an open City Council Meeting depicts a bizarre moment in a bleak democracy landscape. Introducing citizens’ assemblies — where a randomly selected group of citizens hears expert evidence then deliberates — would boost participation on difficult issues and solutions that people have already embraced voluntarily and have built consensus…(More)”.

Centers of Progress: 40 Cities That Changed the World

Book by Chelsea Follett: “Where does progress happen? The story of civilization is the story of the city. It is cities that have created and defined the modern world by acting as the sites of pivotal advances in culture, politics, science, technology, and more. There is no question that certain places, at certain times in history, have contributed disproportionately toward making the world a better place. This book tells the story of forty of those places.

In Centers of Progress: 40 Cities That Changed the World, Chelsea Follett examines a diverse group of cities, ranging from ancient Athens to Song‐​era Hangzhou. But some common themes stand out: most cities reach their creative peak during periods of peace; most centers of progress also thrive during times of social, intellectual, and economic freedom, as well as openness to intercultural exchange and trade; and centers of progress tend to be highly populated. Because, in every city, it is ultimately the people who live there who drive progress forward―if given the freedom to do so.

Identifying common factors―such as relative peace, freedom, and multitudes―among the places that have produced history’s greatest achievements is one way to learn what causes progress. Change is a constant, but progress is not. Understanding what makes a place fertile ground for progress may help to sow the seeds of future innovations.

Moreover, their story is our story. City air provides the wind in the sails of the modern world. Come journey through these pages to some of history’s greatest centers of progress…(More)”.

Artificial intelligence in local governments: perceptions of city managers on prospects, constraints and choices

Paper by Tan Yigitcanlar, Duzgun Agdas & Kenan Degirmenci: “Highly sophisticated capabilities of artificial intelligence (AI) have skyrocketed its popularity across many industry sectors globally. The public sector is one of these. Many cities around the world are trying to position themselves as leaders of urban innovation through the development and deployment of AI systems. Likewise, increasing numbers of local government agencies are attempting to utilise AI technologies in their operations to deliver policy and generate efficiencies in highly uncertain and complex urban environments. While the popularity of AI is on the rise in urban policy circles, there is limited understanding and lack of empirical studies on the city manager perceptions concerning urban AI systems. Bridging this gap is the rationale of this study. The methodological approach adopted in this study is twofold. First, the study collects data through semi-structured interviews with city managers from Australia and the US. Then, the study analyses the data using the summative content analysis technique with two data analysis software. The analysis identifies the following themes and generates insights into local government services: AI adoption areas, cautionary areas, challenges, effects, impacts, knowledge basis, plans, preparedness, roadblocks, technologies, deployment timeframes, and usefulness. The study findings inform city managers in their efforts to deploy AI in their local government operations, and offer directions for prospective research…(More)”.

City CIOs urged to lay the foundations for generative AI

Article by Sarah Wray: “The London Office of Technology and Innovation (LOTI) has produced a collection of guides to support local authorities in using generative artificial intelligence (genAI) tools such as ChatGPT, Bard, Midjourney and Dall-E.

The resources include a guide for local authority leaders and another aimed at all staff, as well as a guide designed specifically for council Chief Information Officers (CIOs), which was developed with AI software company Faculty.

Sam Nutt, Researcher and Data Ethicist at LOTI, a membership organisation for over 20 boroughs and the Greater London Authority, told Cities Today: “Generative AI won’t solve every problem for local governments, but it could be a catalyst to transform so many processes for how we work.

“On the one hand, personal assistants integrated into programmes like Word, Excel or Powerpoint could massively improve officer productivity. On another level there is a chance to reimagine services and government entirely, thinking about how gen AI models can do so many tasks with data that we couldn’t do before, and allow officers to completely change how they spend their time.

“There are both opportunities and challenges, but the key message on both is that local governments should be ambitious in using this ‘AI moment’ to reimagine and redesign our ways of working to be better at delivering services now and in the future for our residents.”

As an initial step, local governments are advised to provide training and guidelines for staff. Some have begun to implement these steps, including US cities such as BostonSeattle and San Jose.

Nutt stressed that generative AI policies are useful but not a silver bullet for governance and that they will need to be revisited and updated regularly as technology and regulations evolve…(More)”.

How citywide data strategies can connect the dots, drive results

Blog by Bloomberg Cities Network: “Data is more central than ever to improving service delivery, managing performance, and identifying opportunities that better serve residents. That’s why a growing number of cities are adding a new tool to their arsenal—the citywide data strategy—to provide teams with a holistic view of data efforts and then lay out a roadmap for scaling successful approaches throughout city hall.

These comprehensive strategies are increasingly “critical to help mayors reach their visions,” according to Amy Edward Holmes, executive director The Bloomberg Center for Government Excellence at John Hopkins University, which is helping dozens of cities across the Americas up their data games as part of the Bloomberg Philanthropies City Data Alliance (CDA).

Bloomberg Cities spoke with experts in the field and leaders in pioneering cities to learn more about the importance of citywide data strategies and how they can help:

  • Turn “pockets of promise” into citywide strengths;
  • Build upon and consolidate other citywide strategic efforts; 
  • Improve performance management and service delivery;
  • Align staff data capabilities with city needs;
  • Drive lasting cultural change through leadership commitment…(More)”.

Creating Action with Data: Using Data to Increase Equity in Urban Development

Report by Justin Kollar, Niko McGlashan, and Sarah Williams: “The use of data in urban development is controversial because of the numerous examples showing its use to reinforce inequality rather than inclusion. From the development of Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC) maps, which excluded many minority communities from mortgages, to zoning laws used to reinforce structural racism, data has been used by those in power to elevate some while further marginalizing others. Yet data can achieve the opposite outcome by exposing inequity, encouraging dialogue and debate, making developers and cities more accountable, and ultimately creating new digital tools to make development processes more inclusive. Using data for action requires that we build teams to ask and answer the right questions, collect the right data, analyze the data ingeniously, ground-truth the results with communities, and share the insights with broader groups so they can take informed action. This paper looks at the development of two recent approaches in New York and Seattle to measure equity in urban development. We reflect on these approaches through the lens of data action principles (Williams 2020). Such reflections can highlight the challenges and opportunities for furthering the measurement and achievement of equitable development by other groups, such as real estate developers and community organizations, who seek to create positive social impact through their activities…(More)”.