Open data, AI apps shine at Census demo day
- By Chase Gunter
- Mar 04, 2019
The Opportunity Project, a Census Bureau program to help agencies, communities and industry build digital tools with federal data, showcased this year's apps, which ranged from disaster recovery to health care to the workforce.
Of the digital tools using open federal data and artificial intelligence for the tech sprint, two highlighted their projects at the March 1 demo day. A chatbot built by Microsoft to match patients to clinical trials, and an app created by 14-year-old Olivia Goodreau that allows users to report and track potential disease-carrying ticks in real time were among the projects from the Department of Health and Human Services' version of the TOP program, the TOP Health tech sprint.
Workforce-related projects put artificial intelligence to work on data from the Departments of Education, Labor, Housing and Urban Development and others.
IBM built an AI system connecting veterans transitioning to civilian life to jobs matching their skillsets and interests. Labor Deputy Secretary Patrick Pizzella also announced the agency would formalize a departmentwide data board and appoint a chief data officer "this coming month."
Other projects used data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and focused on disaster recovery, particularly relating to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
One of the problems in the wake of Hurricane Maria was that many households in Puerto Rico have multiple addresses. To help locate these houses, one project included a database of standardized address, compatible with state and local governments. Another project presented was a videogame set in a digitized city to allow users to explore the landscape during a disaster and promote protective actions.
Other presenters touched on their federal data-based projects aimed at helping local communities and governments respond to the opioid crisis, homelessness, education and other local challenges.
Kelvin Droegemeier, the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, praised the projects for using federal data outside of its original context.
"Liberating data is one of the main focal points of the White House," he said. "How do we liberate data to bring it forward to folks who are very innovative … to solve some of the foremost problems?"
Looking ahead, TOP Director Drew Zachary announced the bureau would be hosting similar tech sprints in the near future. Zachary, who is also co-director of Census' Open Innovation Labs, won a 2019 Federal 100 Award for her work on the Opportunity Project.
One sprint, she said, will center on getting people to respond to the 2020 Census. Another will be a prize competition launching in the summer, and the third will solicit submissions for problems facing government later this year.
This article was first posted on FCW, a sibling site to GCN.
Chase Gunter is a former FCW staff writer.