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Technology and Politics Mon Mar 04 2013

Chicago Competes in Mayors Challenge

Chicago has been chosen as one of 20 finalists for the Mayors Challenge, a national competition for city innovation sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies, for a proposed data analytics platform that would help the city sort through the massive amounts of data it collects to inform government decision making. Voting for the fan favorite selection is open until March 6 on Huffington Post.

"Our ability as a society to collect data has way outpaced our ability to analyze it," said Matt Fischler, of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office, in a video about the Mayors Challenge. Chicago collects over 7 million rows of data a day, according to Fischler.

The city's submission to the competition is called SmartData, and it will be an open-source platform that analyzes data and promises to enhance the decision making of Chicago's leaders.

"Our goal is to change the way cities operate--moving from 'reacting faster' to 'anticipate,'" said Brett Goldstein, Chicago Chief Data and Information Officer, in an email. "And we are making it open source--we want this to be available to cities everywhere."

Regardless of which city gets the most votes online, the winning city, which will receive $5 million to implement its proposed idea, will be determined by a panel of "funders, innovation whizzes, and experts in public problem solving" during the second quarter of this year, according to the challenge's website. Three other finalists will each receive $1 million.

Chicago's proposed data analytics program would compare disparate sets of data to find relationships that help decision makers act smarter and quicker. For example, it could take data on traffic and pedestrians and compare it with all of the city's other available data to find correlations and reduce collisions, according to Goldstein.

Other finalist submissions include a program combining data analytics with health care coordination to lower infant mortality, submitted by Cincinnatti, OH, and an "Urban Food Corridor" that would strengthen relationships between different stages of food production, submitted by Knoxville, TN. Chicago is the largest city of all the finalists.

"Good enough for government isn't good enough for me, and it isn't enough for Mayor Emanuel," said Goldstein. "We are using data to create a smarter city, where rigorous data analysis is a standard."

Voting for the fan favorite category ends Wednesday, March 6. Vote for Chicago here.

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