Release of the Array of Things Civic Engagement Report

On August 15th, Array of Things released the final version of the project’s governance and privacy policies as well as responses to public feedback collected in June through the Array of Things Civic Engagement Project.  Alongside this release, Smart Chicago shared The Array of Things Civic Engagement Report.

Here is an excerpt outlining the purpose and content of the Report:

As smart cities embrace and deploy innovative technology embedded in public spaces, residents voices need to be represented. To prevent disconnect between residents and their city’s technology, broad engagement is key — not only to inform residents of innovations, but to take inventory of public concerns and questions associated with them.

The purpose of this report is to describe the civic engagement and resident feedback collection process associated with a new Internet of Things (IoT) initiative in Chicago: The Array of Things. This report outlines the methods, decisions, and philosophies that went into this effort to increase Chicagoans’ engagement and involvement with smart city technology. Since the deployment of Internet of Things is so timely for cities around the world, we’ve shared the lessons we gleaned from our work. We hope this information can be of service to similar projects in other cities.  

This civic engagement work was accomplished alongside Array of Things operator UrbanCCD as well as the City of Chicago’s Department of Innovation & Technology. Smart Chicago’s Documenters played a key role in promoting and recording public meetings. Additional partners who participated include the Chicago Public Library (CPL), The OpenGov Foundation and the Harvard Ash Center for Democratic Governance & Innovation. CPL provided welcoming community spaces to host public meetings, the OpenGov Foundation worked with us as we utilized Madison to collect resident feedback, and our graduate fellow from the Harvard Ash Center, Glynis Startz, helped execute and write about this work.

The Internet of Things and the data which will emerge from it have great potential to advance research and community priorities. Involving residents in these projects early and regularly ensures that technology is relevant, not just innovative.

Smart Chicago continues to seek new ways to engage residents with emerging urban technologies. As we do, we are committed to writing about and sharing our successes, challenges, and best practices. If you have questions about this report, please contact us.


CUTGroup’s New Proctor Program

CUTGroup HourVoice Test SessionA few weeks ago, we held our first orientation with 17 new CUTGroup Proctors. This was the first step in formalizing a proctor program, training people who were once highly active CUTGroup testers to learn more about usability (UX) testing and CUTGroup test processes and help build better technology in a new way. Similar to our Documenter Program, creating a CUTGroup Proctor program allows us to help train people in new skills and bring new people into the technology ecosystem.

CUTGroup Proctors will be paid to help with current test tasks such as facilitate tests, transcribe sessions, write results, help edit videos and more. They will also allow us to grow the program by using skillsets that we didn’t have before, by helping us conduct tests in multiple languages or reach new groups of people to include in the CUTGroup.

Over the last year, we have expanded the CUTGroup into Cook County, but as we include new testers we want to keep our experienced testers engaged. The proctor program also allows us to build our community, moving active testers into new roles and creating more spaces in tests for new testers to participate. I am overwhelmed by the number of CUTGroup testers who wanted to be part of this opportunity. I invited 30 active CUTGroup testers and over half of them replied, “Yes!”

Thank you for being a part of the CUTGroup! I am writing to you because you have been a big part of CUTGroup and very active in tests. I appreciate all of the time you have spent helping us, and I wanted to see if you would be interested in becoming a CUTGroup proctor.

As you know, CUTGroup proctors are a huge part of helping administer tests and capturing responses and feedback from testers. Since you have been on the other side of the test so often, this could be an opportunity to continue to participate in this community and help us build better technology in a new way.

(Snippet from my email)

A couple of our new CUTGroup Proctors have experience with technology and even user testing, but the majority of them do not. Some of them do not consider themselves to be very “tech-savvy” but are interested in learning new digital skills. Our proctors are educators, nurses, mothers, veterans, researchers, marketing specialists, and customer service representatives (just to name a few). Their backgrounds and experiences are assets to the CUTGroup and they are invested in helping build better technology for our communities. Here are some of the reasons why they wanted to become CUTGroup Proctors:

“I believe in the value of research and appreciate the idea of getting feedback from local community members. This then supports the notion that every person’s voice and opinion carry equal weight.”

“I’m interested in being a CUTGroup proctor because I’ve really enjoyed the process of being a participant, but also because I am eager to get on the other side of the table and learn from the work that is being done.”

“I’ve had an opporunity to participate with this group in the past and see how dedicated the team is to make sure they ‘get it right.’ It’s the feedback from ALL Chicago residents that helps build products services that truly work for them/us.”

“I’m open to learning new and interesting things and working with different people.”

Last week, I facilitated a proctor workshop to teach about how to administer a CUTGroup test. We went through some information about what UX testing is and why it’s an important part of building technology. We also worked together on some exercises to develop questions for an upcoming test and capture feedback. The goal was to move away from giving feedback as CUTGroup testers and begin to observe and listen as CUTGroup proctors. I also wanted them to understand how skills from other jobs can be applied to their experiences at CUTGroup Proctors.  

Last Monday, five of these new CUTGroup Proctors participated in their first CUTGroup test! I’m looking forward to sharing the progress of the CUTGroup program.

Array of Things Final Governance & Privacy Policies Released

Today, the Array of Things project released its final governance and privacy policies. The Array of Things website now houses the final policies as well as answers to public feedback from the project’s operators.

ArrayofThingsLogo-smallArray of Things is a network of interactive, modular sensor boxes that will be installed around Chicago to collect real-time data on the city’s environment, infrastructure, and activity for research and public use. The Array of Things project is led by Charlie Catlett and researchers from the Urban Center for Computation and Data of the Computation Institute, a joint initiative of Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago.The governance and privacy policies for this urban sensing project were shaped by the comments and questions collected during the civic engagement period in June.

There are 3 online forms you can fill out to get involved or receive news on Array of Things:

  • If you’re interested in becoming a research partner for Array of Things, fill out this form from the Array of Things operators.
  • If you’re interested in suggesting ideas for the Array of Things project, including new locations for sensors, fill out this form from the Array of Things Operators.
  • If you’re interested in receiving general news and updates about the Array of Things policies and civic engagement, fill out this Smart Chicago form.


Youth-Led Tech Career Days 2016

This year the Youth-Led Tech program developed targeted Career Days and a Career Development Day. These two programs were designed and integrated into the 6-week technology curriculum to introduce youth to careers both technical and non technical, as well as assist them in beginning to think more strategically and concretely about how to secure employment.

The Youth-Led curriculum is fluid enough to allow for the inclusion of speakers three times during the six-week program and a full day with Dr. Phyllis West, PhD. Students were visited by several local professionals who shared their stories at each site in the community they selected.

Our Roseland Community sites were visited by Jeffrey Beckham the owner of Black Box Creative during the first Career Day held July 7, 2016.

Special guest is here at Dr. Elzie Young Community Center

David Wilkins owner of Rally Cap and Divine Designs visited with our Austin students.

RallyCap at career Day

Jazelle Smith rounded out the first wave of entrepreneurs for the first Career Day.

Jazelle Career Day

The second and third Career Days were held July 21st and July 28th.

Our special guest was Dr. Philips West _D

The second component to the workforce readiness program, “How to Develop a Career Plan 101” with Dr. Phyllis West, PhD focused on “developing a personalized career plan and an overview of strategies of successful people.”  The workshop introduced students to the fundamentals of career planning, helped identify their interests and career goals and learn the trends of the fastest growing careers in America.


Systematizing Privacy and Governance of Data and the Internet of Things

This blog post was originally published on Data-Smart City Solutions and is by Glynis Startz — Smart Chicago’s Harvard Ash Center Summer Fellow. Glynis is assisting with Smart Chicago’s Array of Things Civic Engagement work, among other smart cities-focused projects. Glynis is a Master in Public Policy Candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School.

As cities begin to see big data as an essential part of governing, more are examining and formalizing their handling of data, and of the Internet of Things (IoT) in particular. There is a growing expectation that governments deal with data in a systematic way and embrace responsibilities beyond encryption of personally identifiable information (PII). As an Ash Center Summer Fellow at the Smart Chicago Collaborative, I’ve had the opportunity to witness Chicago’s process before the deployment of the Array of Things. As feedback rolled in on the Array of Things Governance and Privacy Policy, it seemed an ideal time to explore how other cities have dealt with this issue in comparison, and the direction or directions in which the conversation is moving. Recent examples include Seattle’s Technology Privacy Policy and New York City’s Internet of Things Privacy Policy.

In late 2013, in response to resident concerns over several public failures of data transparency, Seattle launched the City’s Privacy Initiative. According to CTO Michael Mattmiller, its goal was “driv[ing] consistency across the city” and helping departments evaluate their data handling and governance on a project by project basis. Seattle Information Technology led the process by creating a Privacy Advisory Committee of local experts and academics from the University of Washington. The effort culminated in the adoption of six Privacy Principles as City Council Resolution 31570 and a Privacy Policy directing city departments to follow a more in depth Privacy Statement. The principles outlined in the document are 1. We value your privacy; 2. We collect only what we need; 3. How we use your information; 4. We are accountable; 5. How we share your information; and 6. Accuracy is important.  

Approaches in Seattle & New York City

Instead of focusing on creating a set of static requirements, Seattle created a process which forces individuals and departments to fully to think through the implications of their data related actions for individual projects. Staff must consider these privacy principles when creating a new service, as well as create a privacy impact assessment for new technologies. The choice to structure the privacy policy in this way both requires and relies on future care, effort, and thoughtfulness of employees across the city.

New York City’s Internet of Things privacy document, which deals only with the governance of IoT data, is longer and more specific, but sets forth similar principles. There are a number of issues—surveillance, transparency—which are significantly more salient with the sensors required by IoT, but there are many common themes between the two policies. NYC lists their principles as 1. Privacy and Transparency; 2. Data management; 3. Infrastructure; 4. Security; and 5. Operations and Sustainability.

The Seattle and New York City approaches focus on establishing the spirit of the law rather than specific requirements which can be followed to the letter. There are positives and negatives to this approach, which puts the impetus on employees to react to specific situations. This could mean more tailored, sensible approaches to different technology projects, but it also forces citizens to rely on the city government to accurately evaluate each circumstance. That could be difficult for employees to manage and difficult for residents to check. In these policies is the assumption of basic trust in government to follow the spirit of the law when the letter is absent.

Trading less information for more privacy

Both Seattle’s and New York City’s approaches imply that privacy and governance start before the data hit the city servers. They emphasize not just careful handling of data, but also transparency, openness, and careful deliberation surrounding data collection. I believe it is the attention to data collection that really indicates a new level of maturity in technology or data initiatives in cities. It recognizes that cities that hold data have a responsibility to keep it secure. Some could argue that the technical ability to safeguard data has not grown as quickly as the ability to collect large amounts of data inexpensively. This issue is particularly relevant in regard to IoT devices which generally have the ability to gather almost continuous measures. For cities, the decision becomes less about how much data it wants to collect and more about about how much data it will discard.

Growth in the Internet of Things means cities open themselves up to new innovations, but also to a tempting, but potentially dangerous approach to data collection: ‘if we can get it, we may as well’ could create difficult questions about requirements for maintaining data, opening data up to the public, and keeping data secure. The ability to capture large amounts of data easily and cheaply is both a boon and a possible danger for local governments.

Both Seattle and NYC have a framework for thoughtful decision making about information collection. New York in particular requires data collection in projects be designed toward specific purposes and addressing specific problems. The importance of these policies rests on a couple of assumptions: that residents give up privacy when their data are collected, even if those data are not technically Personally Identifiable Information (PII), and that the only way for data to be truly protected is for data not to be collected in the first place. I think these are both valid assumptions, though ones that should be weighed against the value of these data collected, or, more importantly, the potential value of these data not collected. This move to push departments to think through all the future implications of data collection is an important step in the maturation of tech in government.

There are drawbacks to being selective in data collection. It’s not always clear ex ante what data will be the most valuable. Valuable research can be done with data that were collected but never used. Requiring exacting rationales for data collection risks losing the possibility for some of those discoveries, particularly as it becomes easier to facilitate discovery and use of government collected data. In some ways this was a main premise of the early open data movement–cities had data they weren’t using and didn’t necessarily know what to do with, and they put it online for transparency’s sake, but also with the expectation that citizens would make use of it in new and surprising ways.

What’s next for privacy policies?

It seems likely that more and more local governments will be coming out with privacy and governance policies for their data in the coming years — both general policies (like in New York City & Seattle) or project-tailored policies (like in Chicago). Larger cities may follow the path of New York and create ones dealing solely with the IoT, but it is less clear what form these policies will take. There are clearly trade-offs between specificity, clarity, and freedom. Structural decisions may come down to who the policies are designed for, residents or experts, and how much cities are willing to hem themselves in. I’m not sure there’s a correct answer here, but I absolutely think these are questions every city should be sure they’ve asked themselves before writing a policy.

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The proper design of a data governance policy may look very different in different cities. Large cities with significant internal resources and expertise may be more able to put forth generalist policies which put the impetus on departments to make specific decisions. Small cities, on the other hand, may not feel they have the ability to leave the process ad hoc and must instead mandate a one size fits all policy. Pushing the other direction, however, small cities may have more freedom to allow individual deviation because of their less bureaucratic structures, while larger cities have less of an ability to make certain the spirit of non-specific policies are being adhered to.

As more cities create policies, and hopefully engage with residents around them, more insight can be gained about what citizens want and expect from their government in this area. What level of specificity do they require? How much trust do they have in government to do the right thing and how much do they require continued oversight? How do residents view the trade-off between privacy and data use?

DigiSeniors: Microsoft Chicago’s New Computer Training Curriculum for Senior Citizens

At last week’s Connect Chicago Meetup, Microsoft Chicago launched a new computer training curriculum for senior citizens called DigiSeniors. Not only are seniors disproportionately on the wrong side of the digital divide, but there is also a lack of technology training material specialized to their needs, interests, and learning preferences. To address this gap, the team at Microsoft Chicago, with input from the City of Chicago and Connect Chicago, developed DigiSeniors.

To roll out this new curriculum across the city, Microsoft Chicago will be hosting “train-the-trainer” sessions throughout August and September. All technology instructors — whether they are a professional who teaches regular computer classes or a volunteer who assists neighbors and family — are invited to attend and learn how to utilize DigiSeniors in their work. Fill out the form below to sign up for a free train-the-trainer session:

Fill out my online form.