Atlantic Cities

12 Fresh Ideas for Transforming the Places We Live With Open Data

12 Fresh Ideas for Transforming the Places We Live With Open Data
HousingCheckup

This year, the Knight News Challenge has been soliciting project proposals that would open up and leverage government data anywhere at the national, state and local levels (in the U.S. and abroad). As of last week, 886 projects are vying for a share of the $5 million in funding, all in response to this question: "How can we make the places we live more awesome through data and technology?"

Amid all of the submissions are some familiar innovations we've already encountered at Atlantic Cities, formerly as nascent ideas now competing for a chance to scale up: our favorite guerrilla wayfinding campaign from Raleigh, North Carolina; Code for America's playful StreetMix web app; the San Francisco-based Urban Prototyping Festival; and a community-driven transportation planning project based on the kind of data analytics we wrote about here.

But that's barely scratching the surface of all the proposals that Knight has corralled. We've put together a list of 12 ideas from the competition that are new to us and that we think would be worth developing (and we've included the applicants' description of their programs). Through Friday, you can comment on (or "applaud") any of the submissions as applicants continue to refine their proposals. On the 29th, Knight plans to announce a set of semifinalists, who will be invited to complete more detailed proposals. The final winners (there's no predetermined number of them) will then be announced in June. Our picks, in no particular order:

1. Chicago School Select: A personalized decision tool for parents choosing public schools

"Parents now can choose a public school for their children – but are overwhelmed by the process. Our web application will let parents indicate what attributes of a school are important to them, then rank and compare schools based on those attributes."

2. Floodprint

"Floodprint helps communities actively track changing flood footprints due to development and extreme weather by collecting data from citizens and governments, informing better policy decisions to reduce flood risk and community vulnerability."

3. Free Hosted Open Data Portals for Local Governments

"Provide a sustainable free open data hosting and publication service for local governments lacking the resources to deploy and maintain their own dedicated open data portal, to be built with open source software and standards-based cloud services."

4. A Show of Hands

"Public meetings are broadcast online. They should take input online as well. This tool would help people who are unable to physically attend a public meeting to register their vote and have their voice heard on decisions elected officials are making."

5. Why Don't We Own This? Detroit

"Why Don't We Own This? puts the government and the people on the same platform to share data, communicate, and plan for the use of urban space. WDWOT is x-ray glasses to see who owns the world around you, where opportunities are, and what's at risk."

6. Procure.io

"Without open, easy procurement government will consistently pay too much for the development and implementation of yesterday's technology. Procure.io is a proven system to make government buying simpler and increase government's access to tech."

7. Possible City

"The Possible City is a web platform that will enable citizens to instigate organic growth of communities and economies through the re-purposing of vacant properties for innovative new uses."

8. HousingCheckup: Access Your Home’s Full Health and Safety History

"Everyone deserves to live in a safe and healthy home. HousingCheckup provides tenants and their advocates access to a property’s complete health history, including landlord information, current code violations, and past health and safety inspections."

9. Traffic crash data browser and map

"Chicago Crash Browser is a new tool needed by planners and engineers to analyze where the Chicago should invest in infrastructure upgrades to eliminate traffic fatalities by 2022, and educate residents & elected officials about transportation safety."

10. eCitizens: Like Google Alerts for Local Gov Docs - using your keywords

"eCitizens helps local municipal government make their records available, searchable and usable by anyone! We get and store agendas, minutes and reports from America's municipalities and alert you when keywords you care about are mentioned."

11. MapMill - Crowdsourced Disaster Damage Assessment

"This MapMill modification allows anyone to rate the damage depicted in aerial photographs following a disaster. These geolocated judgements are used to form a damage assessment grid to help prioritize efforts on the ground by professional responders."

12. Anywhere Ballot — what if anyone, anywhere, could vote on any device?

"Anywhere Ballot is a “ballot in a box” tool that local governments, nonprofits, and citizen orgs can use to create ballots, hold elections, and see results in an accessible, trusted way. Some day, we hope it changes the way we vote in all elections."

Emily Badger is a former staff writer at The Atlantic Cities based in Washington, D.C. She now writes for The Washington Post. All posts »

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