The Faculty Summer Institute held each May at the University of Illinois in Urbana, Illinois is an invitation only event that focuses on technology in higher education. My session, “Using Web Analytics to Measure Visitor Engagement With Website Content”, was designed to demonstrate the way in which analytics could be used to evaluate the engagement level of site visitors to websites designed to win over supporters or adherents (political or religious). The session was well received with several members of the U of I Political Science Department in attendance. This session was part of a larger project using analytics to analyze political campaigns but the use of analytical packages like Google Analytics or the browser extension Alexa can also prove helpful to businesses or governments wishing to compare the engagement of visitors to their websites with the levels of engagement achieved by the websites of competitors. 


Mobile App to Allow Alabama County Residents to Renew Tags

There is progress in making life more convenient for the residents of Cullman County, Ala. Next month the Revenue Commissioner’s Office plans to roll out a new free mobile app that will allow residents to renew their vehicle tags from their smartphones. In order to renew the vehicle tags for any and all their vehicles, residents can enter their driver license number to search all vehicles registered to them and after verifying their drivers license number and insurance the data is sent to the county tag office for verification. The tag office then verifies the information, calculates the renewal fee and the new tags are sent out by mail to arrive in a few days.

In developing this app, the county joins a growing national movement among counties to make it easier for residents to pay taxes and fees electronically instead of having to use the mails or trek into county offices.


Regional Approach Urged to Ensuring Adequate Broadband Capacity

Broadband as a utility? A regional approach to broadband? These are policies favored by the program manager for Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology at a broadband summit in Fredericksburg organized by the University of Mary Washington. Pointing out that spreading broadband to less populated areas in the region would enable residents to earn their livelihoods from starting small online business thereby growing the regional economy and reducing the pressure on the regional transportation network, program manager Sadie Terry told representatives of local businesses that broadband should be treated like a utility and should be spread into every corner of the region.


Here’s a startup that wants to be an OpenStack for the internet of things — Tech News and Analysis

Municipal governments interested in accumulating data from infrastructure (like parking meters or video monitors) may encounter difficulties in utilizing or granting access to the data because of using different vendors. This start-up hopes to simplify things by offering an open source software package that permits the customer to control a network of sensors and use the data in whatever way seems most beneficial. Is your city/county getting ready for the Internet of Things?


3 Reasons Chicago’s Analytics Could be Coming to Your City

Chicago’s predictive analytics initiative, the SmartData Project, that is designed to serve the city with data-driven predictions and insights to make its departments and services work more efficiently and effectively. The platform is connected to ahub housing information from every department in real time and gathering about 7 million rows of data per day. The SmartData Project — through its publicly available open-source build — is meant to be a template for cities to craft predictive analytics systems of their own. Could your city/county benefit from using the SmartData template to make services more effective and user friendly?


Open Data Event Draws Lawmakers, Startups and City Officials

The California Forward Summit on Public Data, an event held at the University of California Center in Sacramento, Calif., coincided with National Sunshine Week, held March 17-21, that celebrates and promotes the freedom of public information. Several speakers extolled the benefits of opening government databases to the public not only in terms of government transparency but also for the economic benefits that could follow. Does your city/county have an open data policy and if so what are some of the obstacles to making data even more available?


10 States Are Critical To Administration's Efforts To Enroll 6 Million In New Health Plans - Kaiser Health News

Lagging enrollments even in states like Illinois that collaborated with the Federal Government in setting up exchanges. Across the US, of the U.S. total of 28,605,000 who could benefit from the ACA, only 4,242,325 or 14.8% have actually enrolled. The obdurate refusal of state authorities to cooperate in the process of enrollment can explain much of the low percentage of enrollment in a state like Texas (9.4%), but what explains the relatively low level in Illinois (12.1%) where the democratic administration of Governor Quinn has been highly supportive?


Open Data: What Is It and Why Should You Care?

Open data, as opposed to big data (the subject of numerous entries in this blog) is really about making data sets in the possession of government entities available to the public. For data sets to be truly open and useful to the public however, it must be both “technically open” and “legally open” according to the California Open Data Handbook, published in collaboration with Stewards of Change Institute..” The guide defines the terms in this way:

Technically open: [data] available in a machine-readable standard format, which means it can be retrieved and meaningfully processed by a computer application.

Legally open: [data] explicitly licensed in a way that permits commercial and non-commercial use and re-use without restrictions.

Does your county/city/state publish open data in a way that t is available for use by members of the public as well as specialized communities like journalists or academic researchers?


California Preparing for Self Driving Cars by 2015

They’re here!!! or almost here anyway!!! Autonomous automobiles that drive themselves and California’s DMV is busy making plans and putting the regulatory environment into place for these vehicles. Is your state DMV making plans for this inevitable change in the motor vehicle environment?


Utah Launches Google Glass App for Public Transit

Recognizing the potential market for Glass and taking stock of the rapid growth in the number of state residents accessing government websites using a multiplicity of mobile devices, the State of Utah has developed and launched a public transportation app for Google Glass. This first of its kind app through which users can receive notifications for an approaching train or bus, view route information and track public transit vehicle locations in real time.”