and Open Government
Leverage data and new technology to make government more efficient, effective, and open
The City of Chicago will gather and analyze data that allows City leaders to proactively address civic challenges, with the goal of increasing government efficiency and effectiveness.
WindyGrid is a geospatial Web application designed by the City’s Department of Innovation and Technology that strategically consolidates Chicago’s big data into one easily accessible location. The application, which was named the top government innovation by Information Week in 2013, presents a unified view of City operations—past and present—across a map of Chicago, giving City personnel access to the city’s spatial data, historically and in real time, to better coordinate resources and respond to incidents. Examples of City data include 911 and 311 service calls, transit and mobile asset locations, building information, geospatially-enabled public tweets, and other critical information.
The City is currently preparing to release the application’s code through an open-source license, making this the first open source situational awareness system that other municipalities can use and build upon.
In 2013, DoIT’s advanced analytics team developed a forecasting model to determine locations that were likely to experience a surge in rodent complaints in the near future. In partnership with the Event Pattern Detection Laboratory at Carnegie Mellon University, the algorithms look at 31 different factors from the City’s 311 system to forecast complaints, resulting in a revised process that reduces the Department of Streets and Sanitation’s workload by 20 percent.
DoIT’s advanced analytics team and the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) have launched an analytical model that forecasts critical violations across the city’s more than 15,000 food establishments. By examining prior inspection results and other activities, the model predicts which businesses are most likely to have critical violations in the future and allows the City’s three dozen food inspectors to prioritize inspections of those establishments that exhibit the greatest risk.
Quickly locating restaurants with critical violations is a priority for CDPH, as these restaurants are most susceptible to accommodating the start or spread of food-borne illnesses. During a two month evaluation of this new model, the City found critical violations more than seven days earlier than it would have using the previous process. As a result of these earlier citations, the risk of patrons becoming ill is potentially reduced.
Built by the Smart Chicago Collaborative, the application is designed to search for tweets related to food poisoning in Chicago, automatically identifying those that may be about an actual food poisoning case coming from Chicago. CDPH reviews the tweets and replies via Twitter with a link back to the Foodborne Chicago website for additional information.
A study of the system, published by the Centers for Disease Control, found that during March 2013 – January 2014, FoodBorne Chicago identified 2,241 “food poisoning” tweets originating from Chicago and neighboring suburbs. The complaints identified 179 Chicago restaurant locations; at 133 (74.3%) locations, CDPH inspectors conducted unannounced health inspections. A total of 21 (15.8%) of the 133 restaurants reported through FoodBorne Chicago failed inspection and were closed; an additional 33 restaurants (24.8%) passed with conditions, indicating that serious or critical violations were identified and corrected during inspection or within a specified timeframe.
Published in April 2014, the Chicago Energy Data Map is a visualization of all residential natural gas and electric energy use for Chicago in 2010. In addition to exploring energy usage on both neighborhood and census-block levels, the website enables users to review energy-efficiency tips and pledge to make energy-efficiency improvements on behalf of their neighborhoods.
Part of the Mayor’s Retrofit Chicago Initiative, the Energy Data Map is a collaborative effort between the City, the Civic Consulting Alliance, Datascope Analytics, and IDEO, with support from Accenture, Elevate Energy, the Citizens Utility Board, ComEd, and Peoples Gas.
The City of Chicago will continue to improve the accessibility and quality of City data available, both internally and externally, and facilitate methods for analyzing that data to help create a smarter and more efficient city.
The Chicago Open Data Portal provides user-friendly access to more than 600 data sets, having grown by more than 200 data sets over the last two years. On the portal, the public can browse and download data to analyze and create maps and graphs. Chicago’s vibrant civic developer community uses the City’s Open Data Portal to create helpful civic applications, including sweeparound.us, which allows residents to get reminders about upcoming street sweeping, and chicagoflushots.org, which helps residents find a nearby place to get a flu shot. Volunteers and civic-minded residents also regularly convene for meetups, hackathons, hack nights, and learnathons centered on the City’s open data.
Chicago issued the first-ever Open Data Report in 2013, which reviews the City’s progress in advancing open-government initiatives and its strategies and goals for the future. The report highlights progress in releasing data to the public as part of creating a more efficient government, expanding use of social and digital media in public communication, and further consolidating local IT services to improve the efficiency and quality of information delivery.
Chicago has released a number of high-value data sets in 2014, including water data on Chicago’s beaches, enforcement data from automated cameras, and public vehicles’ licenses. Chicago will continue to expand the number of data sets to be used by residents, entrepreneurs, and anyone with an interest in government data.
Chicago was the first City to accept edits to select data sets through the City’s GitHub account. These data are provided in a free business-friendly MIT software license. The GitHub site contains data on bike routes, street locations, pedway routes, bike racks, and building footprints, which can be updated by the public as the data change. The MIT software license promotes an even more business-friendly license to invite start-ups and small companies to use open data as part of their business.
In 2015, in addition to adding more datasets, the City will relaunch its Open Data Portal, providing users with a visual City performance dashboard, and allowing users to interactively explore the data through a series of graphs, charts, and maps.
In addition to data, Chicago has begun to make other data-related projects publicly available on GitHub, including:
- Metalicious—an open-source, user-friendly data dictionary platform
- Open Data ETL Utility Kit—a framework to help governments automate updates to data portals
- RSocrata—a library to enable downloading data for use in the open-source statistics tool R
- Food-desert analysis—the data used by the advanced analytics unit in its analysis of food deserts in the city
Chicago’s data dictionary displays all metadata—data about data—on each data set maintained by the City. The platform—the first user-friendly website of its kind—allows users to find out what data Chicago collects and where the data is stored. The dictionary is a key, unprecedented step in providing full transparency to the City’s data.
The City’s Department of Innovation and Technology released the Open Data ETL Utility Kit at the Code for America Summit in September 2014. The ETL Utility Kit provides automation tools to other governments that are deploying open data portals. The toolkit allows governments to automatically update data on their portals with minimal configuration, bypassing the need for staff to work on manual updates, which is critical to creating sustainable open data programs. The framework was developed by DoIT for its own operations and was released to help the hundreds of other cities that have begun their own open data programs.
The City launched a new blog to provide updates on the Open Data Portal. Chicago’s Open Data Portal is a platform that helps drive business and applications used by the public. In addition to @ChicagoCDO, the Twitter account of the City’s Chief Data Officer, the website provides a means of informing developers and other users about changes, outages, and other factors that may impact the applications that consume information from the Chicago Open Data Portal. The website also provides customer service for the businesses, residents, civic developers, and researchers that have come to rely on the portal.
The City of Chicago will expand and update its mobile, social media, and online technology to increase and improve communication and interaction with residents and businesses.
Since taking office, Mayor Emanuel has implemented a series of reforms to make the delivery of City services more transparent and responsive to residents. In 2012, the City unveiled the Open 311 Service Tracker system, which enables residents to use their smartphones or computers to submit service requests and track requests in real time using a FedEx-style tracking system. The City also upgraded the ChiTEXT tool to allow residents to submit service requests and receive updates via text message. The number of service requests opened online or via mobile app has been steadily increasing. In 2013, 140,000 requests were created via digital channels, and in 2014, more than a quarter of a million requests were generated online or via mobile applications, a 75 percent increase.
To fully implement the Mayor’s Open 311 vision and better support this increase in online interactions, the City will upgrade the technology behind the system. The upgrades will further increase transparency of service requests and City operations, offer residents more options for making service requests and reporting issues, and allow residents to share ideas for service improvements and collaborate with their neighbors to take action to improve their communities. Competitive procurement processes are underway, with the project commencing the latter half of 2015.
Residents and businesses will play an important role in the development of the Open 311 platform. In October 2014, the City began engaging Chicago residents on improvements to the 311 system by soliciting their input online. In addition to submitting ideas online, residents can attend upcoming public listening sessions and neighborhood focus groups, and submit their ideas via social media or to Open311@cityofchicago.org. Residents and businesses will also be able to participate in testing the new platform to ensure that it meets the needs of Chicagoans.
In September 2014, Mayor Emanuel announced the launch of CHIdeas, an online community forum to engage Chicago residents and businesses in a discussion on how to improve City services, create programs and initiatives in our neighborhoods, and enhance the quality of life across the city. Similar to portals used by the administration during the transition and budget processes, CHIdeas provides a structured platform to solicit ideas from the public and promote community dialogue on key issues.
CHIdeas has covered topics including minimum wage, early learning programs, library services, public art installations, emergency preparedness, and small business services. Since launching, the site has welcomed more than 11,350 unique visitors and the City is currently working to implement fifteen of the ideas submitted. New questions are added to the site regularly and residents are encouraged to check back often and suggest additional topics for discussion.
Funded by a $1 million grant from the Chicago Public Library Foundation, CPL launched its new website in April 2014 through a partnership with BiblioCommons. This mobile-friendly website is the first of its kind to fully integrate all aspects of a patron’s online library interactions. Users can easily search for materials, keep a history of what they have checked out, and maintain a wish list of what they want to borrow in the future. They can also rate titles, as well as write and read reviews of books, movies, and music. Content is visible not only to other CPL patrons, but also to the communities of the 200 libraries around the world currently using BiblioCommons’s online catalog platform. Free CPL apps are available for iPhone/iPod touch and Android devices.
The new website also includes two new online offerings for downloading and streaming content. Zinio offers more than 150 digital magazines for free download from the library’s website and allows patrons to keep them for as long as they like, with no return required. Hoopla offers a free streaming service for movies, television, music, and audiobooks, which can also be downloaded and saved for future use.
Since the website’s launch in April 2014, CPL has seen a nearly 18 percent increase in website visits via mobile devices. Residents have been taking advantage of the new social features of the CPL site during the last year. More than 170,000 accounts have been created. Patrons have also created 5,458 lists, rated 50,443 catalog items, and provided more than 3,100 comments.
The City of Chicago will implement a shared-services model for information technology across City departments and agencies that will result in improved services at lower costs, through streamlined processes and the sharing of IT resources.
The Strategic Technology Alignment Roadmap (STAR) Project began in March 2014 to develop a strategic plan for the City’s Department of Innovation and Technology to deliver improved IT services at lower costs. The STAR Project, a partnership between the City and Computer Aid, Inc., will result in a roadmap to consolidate applications and key support services beginning in 2015 and will enable the City to reinvest identified savings in the City’s IT modernization efforts.
In October 2013, Mayor Emanuel announced that the City’s Small Business Center would go paperless by the end of 2016. Moving permits and business licenses online will provide another convenient option for small businesses conducting business with City Hall, allowing them to focus on starting and growing their businesses.
The online permit and business license portal officially launched in February 2014, when the Chicago Department of Public Health’s Air Pollution Control permits were transitioned to the online application format. When complete, the Small Business Center portal will house business licenses, building permits, public-way use permits, and special event permits. The portal will include online applications, navigational tools to effectively utilize the website, a personal dashboard to track the status of permit and license applications, a license and permit “wizard,” and a convenient online payment system. The site will also feature multilingual support via Google Translate as well as professionally-translated information and documents.
The Content Management and Process Modernization team was formed in 2013 to reduce manual- and paper-intensive operations by automating and streamlining City business processes. The team oversees the City’s enterprise content management systems, which include IBM’s FileNet and Microsoft’s SharePoint platforms, and supports more than 30 business applications that leverage these platforms, including paperless budget hearings and human resources processes.
DoIT’s Information Security Office was created in August 2012 to guide cyber security planning and response across all City departments. Early efforts focused on improving tactical readiness and with the addition of federal Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) funding in 2014, the ISO began implementing a three-year strategy to improve the City’s overall cyber-security infrastructure. These capability improvements are focused on the identification and prevention of malicious cyber-activity in the critical areas of public safety, water, and aviation.
As part of the initial phase, the City and Cook County conducted a joint procurement to purchase software and hardware needed to better monitor information networks and respond to cyber-attacks, saving the City $3.2 million in costs. The first phase of improvements will be completed in summer 2015. The second phase will begin in Q3 2015 and will focus on improving existing capabilities and introducing additional security controls in the areas of identity and access management.
Additionally, in 2014, the ISO created the first cross-agency regional working group focused on improving the cyber-readiness of public entities in the Chicago region. The Chicago Region Cyber-Security working group includes representatives from the City, Cook County, Chicago Public Schools, Chicago City Clerk, Chicago Transit Authority, City Colleges of Chicago and the Chicago Police Department. Through this working group, each participating entity can leverage the work of the group to find efficiencies and drive the maturity of each of their cyber-security efforts more rapidly.
Consolidate Data Centers
The City of Chicago’s Department of Innovation and Technology is building the Chicago Cloud using state-of-the-art hardware and data management software to consolidate its data centers. Other government entities will be invited to join to further reduce costs and improve efficiency.
DoIT has invested in a modern hardware platform, referred to as the Chicago Cloud, designed to host City and sister-agency database systems to improve technology performance and reduce operating costs. The City negotiated the initial purchase of these infrastructure improvements at a significant discount to market price, providing taxpayers a savings of $4.2 million while simultaneously improving services.
Several key systems have been migrated to the Chicago Cloud in 2014, including the City’s enterprise resource planning, inspections and permitting, and 311 systems. These migrations have enabled Chicago to retire older hardware and realize performance improvements.
The Chicago Cloud leads to improvement in speed and efficiency of queries: reports now run 95 percent faster, reducing the amount of time staff has to wait for access to critical information. The platform also provides higher reliability through redundancy, and reduces outages and down times, resulting in lower licensing and support costs.
Innovative Technology Solutions
The City of Chicago’s Department of Innovation and Technology will partner with the private sector to deliver commoditized technology, allowing staff to focus on developing innovative technology solutions to issues only government can address.
With the availability of cloud-based “software as a service” solutions to support City communications and business processes, Chicago residents and City employees gain access to innovative technologies while the City reduces its licensing and support costs. In 2014, Chicago Public Library partnered with BiblioCommons to launch a first-of-its-kind library website. In addition to selecting a cloud solution for its Open 311 system, the City has also established similar partnerships for email and productivity applications, as well as enterprise asset management.
In 2013, the City partnered with Microsoft to migrate email and productivity applications to the cloud for more than 30,000 City employees. Completed in early 2014, the move to Office 365 modernizes the City’s technology, reduces support and licensing costs, increases security and stability, and enables departments to communicate and collaborate more effectively.
As part of the modernization of its 311 system, the City will implement Infor EAM, a cloud-based software solution, to support enterprise work-order and asset management. The new system will seamlessly integrate with the resident-facing Open 311 system and will enable City field staff to update service-request status via mobile device, allowing residents to get real-time updates for each request.