The Most Empowering Tool for Hurricane Recovery

Six months after the federal levees failed and Katrina flooded 80 percent of New Orleans, I went to City Hall to try to get electricity restored to our house.

The government building’s seventh floor was so full that overflow needed to be moved to the ground-floor lobby. Most people waiting carried stacks of paperwork and photographic documentation of their damaged homes. One elderly woman ahead of me finally got her turn but walked empty-handed to the counter. She didn’t have a permit to file. She just wanted to know: Have any of her neighbors gotten permits to rebuild? Could they tell her which of her neighbors might be moving back? She didn’t have enough information to decide what to do next. And she wasn’t alone. Without data on the rapidly changing housing and demographic situation, businesses didn’t know how many customers they might have. Charities didn’t know which services were most needed and where. Neighborhoods didn’t know how to prioritize volunteer efforts to rehab houses. The whole city was flying blind.

As months turned to years, people increasingly lost confidence in government agencies and philanthropy. News reports on federal dollars going to the region and donations coming into nonprofits were abundant, but people looked at their own stalled recovery and asked, “Where’s the money?” The lack of financial transparency only added to the sense of uncertainty and suspicion.

We can do better with Harvey and Irma.

Read more of this article at Slate’s Future Tense…

If You Don’t Use Climate Data, You Lose It

Our data is in danger. Since the election, hundreds of scientists, librarians, academics, and technologists have formed a digital bucket brigade, archiving climate and environmental web sites and data sets that might get scrubbed by the Trump Administration. This isn’t an exaggeration: Facts that don’t support the administration’s views are already in the crosshairs. Bills were recently introduced in Congress that would prohibit the Department of Housing and Urban Development from maintaining its database on community racial disparities. Content about the connection between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change has already begun disappearing from the EPA website. And the US Department of Agriculture recently pulled down reports on animal welfare.

Removing inconvenient data is not a new political play. Read the whole article here…

Using Data to Transform Policing in New Orleans


Last week, New Orleans held an event to preview three datasets on policing they plan to open to the general public (use of force, 911 calls for service with arrival times included, and field interview cards).  At the event, city officials worked with a group of young coders to build apps powered by this newly unlocked data.

Read more in this White House Office of Science Technology & Policy blog post by Denice Ross and U.S. Chief Data Scientist DJ Patil…

Ida B. Wells: Journalist, civil rights leader, mother of four (and savvy data-user)


In collaboration with the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, New Orleans, Louisiana 

More than 100 years ago, Ms. Wells used data to launch the anti-lynching movement. Her strategy was brilliant – learn what she did in this short article. 

Jan. 23, 2003 | From the post-civil war era to the middle of the 20th century, White lynch mobs terrorized African American communities across 44 states, with the Southern states bearing the brunt of this violence.  Although legislation to stop lynching was never fully enacted, the work of Ms. Ida B. Wells (1861-1930) and later the NAACP helped raise awareness about the scope of the terror and turned the tide of White public opinion against this injustice.  Ms. Wells wrote powerful narratives against lynching and supported her arguments with compelling statistics.

Visit this archived article to read more…