WBEZ | data http://www.wbez.org/tags/data Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicagoans prep for massive 'civic hackathon' http://www.wbez.org/news/chicagoans-prep-massive-civic-hackathon-107327 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/hackathon11.jpg" alt="" /><p></p> Thu, 23 May 2013 11:27:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicagoans-prep-massive-civic-hackathon-107327 Aaron Swartz dies http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-born-internet-activist-aaron-swartz-dies-26-104883 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Aaron Swartz.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago-born Internet activist Aaron Swartz took his own life in his New York City apartment on Friday, <a href="http://tech.mit.edu/V132/N61/swartz.html" target="_blank">according to his uncle Michael Wolf</a>.<br /><br />Swartz, who at 14 co-authored<a href="http://purl.org/rss/1.0/"> the RSS 1.0 specification</a>, which is widely used for publishing news stories, was often described as a brilliant thinker and architect in the Internet freedom movement <a href="http://boingboing.net/2013/01/12/rip-aaron-swartz.html#more-205376">by his close friends</a>. He was also considered an early builder of the social news and entertainment website <a href="http://www.reddit.com/">Reddit</a>.<br /><br />On July 11, 2011, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/20/us/20compute.html?ref=us&amp;_r=0">Swartz was charged</a> with wire fraud, computer fraud, unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer and recklessly damaging a protected computer in relation to downloading roughly 4 million documents from a digital storage library at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology known as JSTOR.<br /><br />Known for liberating public information from bureaucracy and fees associated with processing data, Swartz founded Demand Progress, which he used to fight the Internet censorship bills <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_Online_Piracy_Act">SOPA</a> and <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PROTECT_IP_Act">PIPA</a> introduced by Congress.<br /><br /><a href="https://twitter.com/search/realtime?q=aaron+swartz&amp;src=typd">Twitter erupted with the news</a> early Saturday morning, and friends and admirers across the country eulogized Swartz in expected ways, but they also <a href="http://boingboing.net/2013/01/12/rip-aaron-swartz.html#more-205376">candidly discussed</a> his fight with depression, his ongoing battle with the feds that might have landed him up to 30 years in prison and his distinctive personality that made him such a presence in the tech world.<br /><br />Swartz&rsquo; Chicago connections are deep. When the FBI investigated him for downloading and publicly releasing 20 percent of PACER, a database of federal court documents, Swartz filed a Freedom of Information Act request and found that <a href="http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/fbifile">agents had cased his house at 349 Marshman Ave. in Highland Park, Ill.</a>, looking for him.<br /><br />Swartz also was affiliated with many in Chicago&rsquo;s open data movement.<br /><br /><a href="http://www.derivativeworks.com/">Dan X. O&rsquo;Neil</a>, co-founder of <a href="http://www.everyblock.com/">EveryBlock</a> as well as Executive Director of the <a href="http://www.smartchicagocollaborative.org/">Smart Chicago Collaborative</a>, a civic organization devoted to improving lives in Chicago through technology, said he met Swartz in 2007 when he worked on the <a href="https://public.resource.org/8_principles.html">8 Principles of Open Government Data</a> along with O&rsquo;Neil and <a href="http://www.holovaty.com/">Adrian Holovaty</a>, founder of EveryBlock and another influential programmer from Chicago.<br /><br />&ldquo;Those principles have been enormously influential in shaping policy in the last five years,&quot; O&#39;Neil told WBEZ on Saturday.&nbsp;</p><p>O&#39;Neil also<a href="http://www.derivativeworks.com/2013/01/aaron-swartz-an-appreciation.html"> wrote in tribute</a> to Swartz&#39; life, &quot;I&rsquo;m so thankful for what you did with your time on Earth. Thank you.&quot;</p><p>Swartz, a <a href="http://www.ethics.harvard.edu/">Harvard Ethics Center Fellow</a>, was considered an Internet folk hero for his activism, technical knowledge and passion for providing access to information, and many people took to Twitter, Reddit, Facebook and Tumblr to eulogize him.&nbsp;</p><p>One Reddit user gave a particularly poignant eulogy: &ldquo;Great minds carry heavy burdens.&quot;</p><p>Historian and writer Rick Perlstein wrote an<a href="http://www.thenation.com/blog/172187/aaron-swartz#"> obit in <em>The Nation</em></a> where he eulogized Swartz like this: &quot;I remember always thinking that he always seemed too sensitive for this world we happen to live in, and I remember him working so mightily, so heroically, to try to bend the world into a place more hospitable to people like him, which also means hospitable to people like us.&quot;</p><p><a href="http://rememberaaronsw.tumblr.com/">In an official statement</a>, the family and partner of Aaron Swartz wrote: &ldquo;Aaron&rsquo;s insatiable curiosity, creativity, and brilliance; his reflexive empathy and capacity for selfless, boundless love; his refusal to accept injustice as inevitable&mdash;these gifts made the world, and our lives, far brighter. We&rsquo;re grateful for our time with him, to those who loved him and stood with him, and to all of those who continue his work for a better world.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>The family is inviting those who knew Aaron to contribute their memories to a <a href="http://rememberaaronsw.tumblr.com/">Tumblr set up in his honor</a>.</p><p>A funeral will be held at Central Avenue Synogogue in Highland Park on Tuesday, Jan. 15 at 10 a.m. His family will be announcing memorials taking place in other cities <a href="http://rememberaaronsw.com">here</a>.</p><p><em>Contact <a href="mailto:takimoff@wbez.org">Tim Akimoff</a></em></p></p> Sat, 12 Jan 2013 13:39:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-born-internet-activist-aaron-swartz-dies-26-104883 Number of TANF cases remains low, even in recession http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/number-tanf-cases-remains-low-even-recession-104375 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/DHSoffice.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><script type="text/javascript" src="http://public.tableausoftware.com/javascripts/api/viz_v1.js"></script></p><div class="tableauPlaceholder" style="width:604px; height:629px;"><noscript><a href="#"><img alt="Dashboard 2 " src="http:&#47;&#47;public.tableausoftware.com&#47;static&#47;images&#47;TA&#47;TANFPoverty&#47;Dashboard2&#47;1_rss.png" style="border: none" /></a></noscript><object class="tableauViz" height="629" style="display:none;" width="604"><param name="host_url" value="http%3A%2F%2Fpublic.tableausoftware.com%2F" /><param name="site_root" value="" /><param name="name" value="TANFPoverty/Dashboard2" /><param name="tabs" value="no" /><param name="toolbar" value="yes" /><param name="static_image" value="http://public.tableausoftware.com/static/images/TA/TANFPoverty/Dashboard2/1.png" /><param name="animate_transition" value="yes" /><param name="display_static_image" value="yes" /><param name="display_spinner" value="yes" /><param name="display_overlay" value="yes" /><param name="display_count" value="yes" /></object></div><div style="width:604px;height:22px;padding:0px 10px 0px 0px;color:black;font:normal 8pt verdana,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;"><div style="float:right; padding-right:8px;"><a href="http://www.tableausoftware.com/public?ref=http://public.tableausoftware.com/views/TANFPoverty/Dashboard2" target="_blank">Powered by Tableau</a></div></div><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F71161503" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Ronia Houston is a case manager for people receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the program most people think of as welfare.</p><p>Caseworkers make sure clients fill out the paperwork and follow the rules to get help with childcare, work training and other financial support they need to provide for themselves and their families.</p><p>In Illinois, there are 852 cases per every case worker. That&rsquo;s nearly triple the number of cases in 2001.</p><p>Houston says one of her clients is always in crisis. They can&rsquo;t cover heating bills or get kicked out of their home and need to find a shelter on short notice. Her clients need to find jobs in order to get assistance. But many have nowhere near the education to even apply for most jobs.</p><p>Houston says she doesn&rsquo;t have the time or resources to give every client the attention they need.</p><p>That saddens her, since Houston herself grew up on welfare and remembers what it felt like to be treated as a number.</p><p>&ldquo;I always tell my co-workers about being a child receiving public assistance and being in the public aid office for hours at a time. Telling my mom, when are we going to leave this place? When your parent has been degraded in that moment, you are aware of that as a child,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Everyday, she makes hard choices about where to spend her limited time. She watches her fellow employees do the same.</p><p>&ldquo;If a worker has a caseload of 1,500, you are asking them to play Russian Roulette with someone&rsquo;s life because they have to decide do I do food stamps first? Do I process Medical first?&rdquo; Houston said.</p><p>Jennifer Wagner is the Associate Director for the Illinois Department of Human Services.</p><p>She says their local offices are overwhelmed by the demand. And that unfortunately, means some applicants just give up.</p><p>&ldquo;People may have to apply more than once. They may have to submit paperwork more than once, in order to actually get on. And for some applicants that burden is just too great to bear,&rdquo; Wagner said.</p><p>That&rsquo;s especially true for programs like cash assistance, the program that provides welfare funds directly to families. Its clients have more requirements to reach and paperwork to fill out.</p><p>Liz Schott is a Senior Fellow at The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. She says Illinois is one of the weaker safety nets for poor children.<br /><br />She points to the most recent numbers: For years 2010 and 2011, for every 100 poor families with poor children, 13 of them got cash assistance.<br /><br />That&rsquo;s half the national average.<br /><br />That means in Illinois, if your family is amongst the very poor and without a job, you are less likely to receive welfare. There are lots of reasons our numbers may be low.<br /><br />In the 1990s and early 2000s, Illinois systematically moved people away from TANF. Caseworkers scheduled frequent, mandatory meetings that determined benefit eligibility. When people found it hard to keep those meetings, the number of cases fell significantly.<br /><br />Schott says Illinois has made it easier for families in recent years. And we are now serving more poor families that we use too. But she says we still have a long ways to go.<br /><br />For example, the maximum benefit for a family of three is $432 a month or $5,184 per year. That&rsquo;s nowhere near enough to bring families above the poverty line.<br /><br />Jennifer Wagner agrees that improvements can be made but says times are tight for local governments.<br /><br />&ldquo;There is a lot of recognition at the state level about how valuable this program is. It is part of the budget talks, regularly. That doesn&rsquo;t mean there is always money for it,&rdquo; she said.<br /><br />That&rsquo;s no comfort to Ronia Houston who struggles everyday to properly serve her clients. She wants to find ways to help people and says it&rsquo;s difficult when caseworkers need the time and space to figure out each client&rsquo;s individual needs.<br /><br />&ldquo;If you had more people working on cases, caseworkers wouldn&rsquo;t be faced with the dilemma of &lsquo;Do I give this person life with their medication, or do I feed this person,&rsquo;&rdquo; Houston said.<br /><br />The original legislation for TANF was created during a period of economic boom, when more jobs were available. The program did receive some money as part of the economic stimulus bill but that program has ended, and that money is no longer available.<br /><br />The bill that sets the federal guidelines for TANF is up for renewal. Advocates hope that a few details about the program, including funding, will be reviewed before then.</p></p> Fri, 14 Dec 2012 06:03:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/number-tanf-cases-remains-low-even-recession-104375 Chicago competition seeks apps from government information http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago-competition-seeks-apps-government-information-88317 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/iphone william hook.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The CTA bus tracker will let you know how much longer you have to wait in the rain. The train tracker will tell you how fast you need to run to the station. Imagine an application that can tell you which stations have coffee shops nearby, or where this weekend’s block party is, or where your towed car ended up.</p><p>In an effort to solve everyday problems, and encourage the use of data made freely available by municipalities, a competition is pitting geek against geek to digitize government.</p><p>The Apps 4 Metro Chicago competition follows New York and San Francisco in the trend of city-wide app competitions.&nbsp; The competition, #A4MC in Twitter parlance, is the first to offer data sets from multiple government agencies.</p><p>Data sets are lists and data made readily available by municipalities. A data set can be hard read or access for the average user such as skimming through a lengthy list to find out where a car was towed to.</p><p>Competitors have 125 data sets to work with from the city, 48 from the state, and 10 from Cook County. The available data ranges from the salaries of public employees to the location of police stations, forest preserves information to tourism data.</p><p>The competition is sponsored by the Metro Chicago Information Center, in partnership with MacArthur Foundation and Motorola Mobility. The first leg of the competition kicked off early Friday and submissions for the transportation challenge close just before midnight on August 15 –a tight deadline for developers.</p><p>“There has been a call for open, transparent government data for a number of years,” Virginia Carlson, president of the Metro Chicago Information Center said. MCIC is hosting the competition as the hub of information and data.</p><p>The MacArthur Foundation is offering over $50,000 in prizes and Motorola Mobility is chipping in another $10,000.&nbsp; Other partners are the Chicago Community Trust and the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition.</p><p>Built into the judging criteria is the long-term usability of the app and whether it will have legs and business sustainability, Carlson explained. Other judging criteria include functionality, creativity and usefulness. The competition has three main parts – the transportation, community and grand challenge.</p><p>Fabian Bustamante, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Northwestern University, foresees the biggest problem being the time constraint.</p><p>“Developing a basic barebones app is relatively easy to do in a few days,” he said. “Smoothing out the user interface, that’s where the time will go.”&nbsp;</p><p>A4MC&nbsp; isn’t limited to just the people behind the code. Community members with an idea for an app or a problem an app can solve, are able submit ideas on the competition’s <a href="http://appsformetrochicago.com/">website</a>.</p><p>“We’re having virtual and actual conversations between the code writers and community to bridge the divide in order to build apps,” Carlson said. She added that MCIC will be moderating conversations between community leaders and developers. That way the app design will be both human centered and community realistic for any problems.</p><p>Bustamante called these meetings a “silver plate” for developers. “One of the problems you run into is having an app that has social impact.” By bringing the community leaders into the conversation, the developers will have an immediate audience for the app.</p><p>Correction: A previous version of this story had misspelled the MacArthur Foundation, a partner in the competition.&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 24 Jun 2011 20:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago-competition-seeks-apps-government-information-88317