Sing a Song of Data

January 19, 2017 12:00 pm PST | Data News Roundup

Syracuse plans to use data to identify homes with a high risk for fire and ensure that working smoke detectors are installed, and a Knight City Challenge finalist wants to bring data to life with bluegrass music. The Bloomberg Philanthropies Innovations Teams program will help seven local governments tackle issues through data analysis, Congress makes the role of U.S. Chief Technology Office a permanent position, and Hudson Hollister shares thoughts on open data priorities for the federal government. Read on for this week’s open data news:

Syracuse firefighters to get smoke detectors into high-risk homes

“City officials are taking a data-driven approach to preventing fire fatalities. Starting this year, the city plans to use statistics like age, income, address and multiple other factors to target residents at high risk of fire who are least likely to have smoke detectors. The fire department will then work to get working fire detectors in as many of those at-risk homes as possible. Sam Edelstein is chief data officer for the city. He borrowed the idea from a similar initiative in New Orleans. That program was developed with help from Mike Flowers, who was chief analytics officer for New York City under Mayor Michael Bloomberg.” Read more from

Demystifying Civic Data Through Song, and 10 Other Civic Tech Finalists in the Knight Cities Challenge

“The average person doesn’t know how to access an API. But they do listen to music. That’s the driving idea behind a proposal from the Office of Creative Research (OCR) in New York: to make data valuable to people by interpreting it in more human ways. Specifically, they want to do that by telling data stories through bluegrass music. ‘We’ve been thinking for a long time about this sort of divide that exists between data and culture,’ said Jer Thorp, OCR’s co-founder. ‘Data is usually communicated through these really sterile means like charts and graphs. And they’re designed for a really narrow purpose … like policy decisions.’ But especially in the age of ubiquitous government open data, it’s also supposed to be for the people. That’s the concept behind Socrata’s open data portals, Esri’s story maps and a recent collaboration between LiveStories and the U.S. Department of Defense. Read more from Government Technology.

DATA Act deadline signals need for upgrades

“While most CFO Act agencies expect to hit the May deadline of the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, some warn that systems and accounting practices alike must be upgraded in order to fully comply and provide the accurate, financial information the Data Act demands.” Read more from FCW.

Governments struggling to retain trust of citizens, global survey finds

“Weakened and distrusted central governments around the world have been incapable of responding to the way the internet and social media have empowered populist but previously fringe groups, a unique worldwide survey of government communication chiefs has found….’When people feel ignored, unheard and unrepresented they turn to alternative sources of information. If governments do not communicate with citizens properly, citizens will go somewhere elsewhere for information,’ the report says.” Read more from the Guardian.

New Report: Making Citizen-Generated Data Work

“The first report “Making Citizen-Generated Data Work” asks what makes citizens and others want to produce and use citizen-generated data….The report demonstrates that citizen-generated data projects are rarely the work of individual citizens. Instead, they often depend on partnerships to thrive and are supported by civil society organisations, community-based organisations, governments, or business. These partners play a necessary role to provide resources, support, and knowledge to citizens. In return, they can harness data created by citizens to support their own mission. Thus, citizens and their partners often gain mutual benefits from citizen-generated data.” Read more from Open Knowledge International.

Giving Cities Room to Experiment and Innovate

“When cities are faced with a slew of problems, it’s tempting to skip the research process and jump right to the solutions. And you can’t always blame them. Faced a lack of funding and human capital—not to mention groups of increasingly frustrated residents—there isn’t necessarily room for trial and error. Bloomberg Philanthropies is giving seven local governments a bit of breathing room through its Innovation Teams program (i-teams for short). The initiative, which already includes 13 other municipalities across the globe, provides grants to help cities form a team of problem solvers to tackle issues through data analysis and collaborations with residents.” Read more from Route Fifty.

Open Data in the Age of Trump

“The President-Elect has not promised to bring technological modernization to government. Nor has he shown a commitment to transparency — data transparency or any other kind. Yet the federal government’s open data transformation can, and should, continue. Here is how.” Read more from Hudson Hollister on Medium.

Congress makes the role of U.S. chief technology officer permanent

“On January 6, 2017, President Barack Obama quietly signed a bill that codified the role of the chief technology officer (CTO) of the United States into law. Congress made the US CTO permanent in the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, which passed the Senate on December 10 and the House on December 16. In doing so, our legislators recognized a reality that’s clear around the globe: technology is now part of every facet of society, including government itself. In the 21st century, it’s critical that the President of the United States have a technologist advising him or her on policy decisions.” Read more from the Sunlight Foundation.

Will open data survive Trump?

“Open data has always faced challenges: institutional inertia, attempts to conceal incompetence, and so on. The Obama administration gave open data a major boost with (a catalog of open federal government data) and other initiatives, including The Opportunity Project (a project to jumpstart open data apps) announced last March. But now, as we enter the Trump era, open data may face its ultimate test.” Read more from InfoWorld.

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