News Article: Chicago seeking ‘smart-city’ tech solutions to improve city life

Today I was quoted in an article in the Chicago Tribune about Chicago’s “smart city” efforts. Here are two relevant snips:

“How do we connect these abstract, big-picture, big-data initiatives to the needs of the residents of Chicago who are struggling under a failure to fund education and under a police force that thwarts the will of the people?” asked Daniel X. O’Neil, executive director of Smart Chicago Collaborative, a civic group that aims to improve residents’ lives through technology.

*

Those lessons likely will apply to Chicago as well as it pursues its smart-city strategies. O’Neil, of the Smart Chicago Collaborative, suggests the city and its partners keep their eyes on one overarching goal.

“I find immense value in what they are doing (but) I continue to drive them, and drive all of us and anyone in the smart-cities movement, to work harder at finding out how we can make lives better,” he said. “I continue to have consternation at how all this fits together.”

Smart City Chicago Tribune

DSC01046 DSC01047 DSC01048 DSC01049

Report: Chicago Police Accountability Task Force

PATF_Final_Report_Executive_Summary_4_13_16Today marks the publication of the  Chicago Police Accountability Task Force, “Recommendations for Reform: Restoring Trust between the Chicago Police and the Communities they Serve“.

I served on the Early Intervention & Personnel Concerns working group, and helped develop this recommendation:

publish, on a monthly basis, aggregate data on the following: new and pending complaints by unit, disciplinary actions, missed court dates, new civil legal proceedings against officers, new criminal legal proceedings against officers, vehicle pursuits, vehicle collisions, uses of force, employee commendations, use of firearms, injuries to persons in custody, judicial proceedings where an officer is the subjective of a protective or restraining order, adverse judicial credibility determinations against an officer, or disciplinary actions.

Here’s a snip from a blog post I wrote, covering the significance of this recommendation and how it might be helpful in creating communion betweens residents and police: “A Radical Approach to Open Police Data

In the civic tech world, “crime data” has always been understood to be about crime reports. I myself have helped make websites, like EveryBlock, that use “crime data” of this kind.

I’ve come to believe, however, that this focus has led to a deeply skewed vision of “crime” and a dangerously incomplete view of how people can work together to improve communities around public safety data.

*

But this information referenced by the Task Force is a new idea altogether. The idea is that in order to have a view of safety in a community, one has to have a view of data on how the police treat residents.

Even in aggregate format, having the police report on how many times a gun was used by an officer, or a judge ruled that an officer lied in court, or the number of times a police car was involved in a crash, can be a breakthrough in getting us to see things differently.

It’s a start in thinking that we’re all in this together— victims, police, offenders, family. That we have to measure and care about and report on all aspects of safety— not just the crime reports that officers decide to create.

 

Panel: Big Data & the Public Good for the Illinois Humanities

Today I moderated a panel for Illinois Humanities about how big data can serve the public good. Here’s how they described it:

What is the relationship between information technology, urban space, and the public good in the age of big data? Where do “smart cities” initiatives like the Array of Things – which doesn’t collect any information about individuals – fit into contemporary conversations about privacy and surveillance? How can the arts and humanities help our society think through these issues?

Alongside the discussion, we’ll also release the second issue of a chapbook set accompanying the Data, Democracy and the Human Story program series, featuring contributions from Chicago-area artists and writers.

Here’s a pic from the stage:

BIG DATA AND THE PUBLIC GOOD

Here’s a Smart Chicago blog post covering the event. Snip:

Dan O’Neil shared some of the best practices that Smart Chicago has gleaned: do engagement work as openly as possibly, document your process and planning, invite everyone, and “fetishize the outputs.” One recent example of model of engagement is Smart Chicago’s work with the Chicago Police Accountability Task Force Community Forums.

Panel: Civic Tech Breakfast

This morning I participated in a panel discussion about community technology resources with Alderman David Moore (17), Alderman Roderick Sawyer (6), Edward Coleman, Chief Innovation Officer of Bethel New Life, and Tina James, Director of Commercial and Technology Services at Greater Southwest Development Corporation.

We spoke about the need to support and fund community technology for all.

dxo-civic-tech-panel

Documenters for the Chicago Police Accountability Task Force meetings

This month I conceived, led, and participated in the documentation of the four community forums hosted by the Chicago Police Accountability Task Force.
The work, centered at Smart Chicago, is a part of the Documenters program. Here’s a snip from a blog post I wrote, kicking off this particular work with the CPATF:

We care about justice and we care about accountability, so we have sent text documenters, videographers (Community TV Network), and a photographer (me) to these convenings under our Documenters program, which “an essential tool for us to add new thinkers, generate ideas, and expand the field for civic tech.”

We show up at public meetings and document the proceedings because we’re interested in paying as much attention as we can to what others are saying, what their concerns are, and how they interact with official government structures. These community forums give us a great opportunity for this. We have a number of goals for this series:

  • Document the actual proceedings, with special attention, in this instance, to the speakers from the public— exactly what questions were asked, what documents were referenced, and what answers were offered by the task force
  • Research the questions and answers to the greatest degree possible. This includes learning more about the speakers, many of whom have decades of experience in their communities. Research and link to their organizations, their work, and the external documents, cases, and other matters that they reference
  • Aggregate the information and draw some rudimentary conclusions. This means simple things like counting attendees and speakers as well as some more sophisticated analysis like grouping comment types and themes.

My role was to manage the project— hire the videographers, writers, and photographers. I also attended most of the meetings and did all of the photo documentation for meetings 1, 2, and 3.

News Article: Justice: There’s an App for That

Today I was quoted in an article in U.S. News & World Report: Justice: There’s an App for That. The article referenced the Smart Chicago project, Crime & Punishment in Chicago.

Smart Chicago, a tech-based organization in the Windy City, tracks information from Chicago law enforcement – “the entire flow, from the commission of a crime to the person going to jail,” says Dan X. O’Neil, its executive director. “The impetus was that the city of Chicago publishes an enormous amount of crime data” that can be used to examine trends, The organization is also teaching computer coding and website development to kids in “neighborhoods most affected by violence and crime,” he adds. “That, we think, is one solution to mass incarceration and hopelessness and crime.”

Justice there's an app for that

Launch: OpenGrid at the UIC Electronic Visualization Laboratory

Today I helped launch OpenGrid— a free, browser-based, open source mapping platform displaying Chicago’s robust collection of open datasets.

Daniel X. O'Neil at UIC EVL. Photo by Lance Long, UIC/EVL

Here’s a set of photos I took:

My role was to take part in the conceptual model of OpenGrid, working with City technology officials to plan the work, and help manage the work of the Smart Chicago tech consultant, Uturn Data Solutions.

Here’s a snip from the launch coverage in the Harvard Data-Smart City Solutions piece on the launch:

“A collaborative union between developers, residents, and government – that’s what Smart Chicago is about, and that’s what OpenGrid is about too,” O’Neil noted at the application’s launch. “This is why we’re on it.”  To build the service layer, Smart Chicago commissioned UTurn Data Solutions, a local IT consultancy focused data storage and Cloud computing projects.

Presentation: The Inefficacy of Dots on Maps at Chi Hack Night

Tonight I gave a few remarks at Chi Hack Night #188: Introducing Open Grid. Take a look at the original source video or see the snip below.

Here’s how Chris Hagan of WBEZ covered these remarks in his article, “Chicago launches OpenGrid, latest step in making open data more accessible“:

Dan O’Neil, executive director of the Smart Chicago Collaborative, which assisted on the project, reminded developers that tools such as OpenGrid are a first step. He pointed out that despite Chicago’s advances in open data, problems such as police misconduct have arguably gotten worse.

“There are no dots on a map that stopped that from happening,” O’Neil said. “There is no set of crime statistics that stopped that from happening. We have to find ways to have communion with people who are not here.”

Communion is what matters.