NYC puts air quality, city demographics and public hearing data on Filecoin network


The decentralized storage rewards miners for finding space for customer data and aims to secure “humanity’s information.”

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New York City and Protocol Labs are making city data available on Filecoin, a decentralized file storage network.

Image: Protocol Labs

New York City’s Open Data office is working with Protocol Labs to put city information on the Filecoin network as part of an experiment with the decentralized web. This five-year project will allow New York City to test the idea that decentralized storage technology can improve government operations. 

Filecoin is a peer-to-peer network that stores files, with “built-in economic incentives to ensure files are stored reliably over time,” according to the Filecoin Foundation. As Coinbase describes it, Filecoin “functions as a marketplace where developers can rent storage space.” Instead of getting that space from AWS or Google Cloud, the files are split up and stored on a globally distributed network of computers.” Filecoin is just over a year old and a project of Protocol Labs. 

City officials said in a press release that moving data onto the decentralized web will improve reliability, resiliency and security while also reducing costs. City officials see the decentralized web as a hedge against single points of failure, such as the Facebook outage in October.

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Marta Belcher, board chair of the Filecoin Foundation, said the best way to preserve and protect humanity’s most important information is to expand and strengthen the decentralized web. 

“No single person, company or nation should be responsible for preserving our collective history,” Belcher said. ” Without good governance, this information is at risk of being manipulated or lost.” 

This project with NYC represents the next step in building the next generation of the web by preserving valuable public data on the Filecoin network, Belcher said.

Also, public documents from previous city decisions can inform future policies and the city’s tech leaders want to preserve such data. Finally, according to the city, Filecoin network storage is more cost effective than traditional storage providers. The Filecoin Foundation and Protocol Labs are splitting the cost of the project.

The first three data sets uploaded to the Filecoin network include City Record Online, a database of notices published in the City Record newspaper, including public hearings and meetings, public auctions and sales; NYC air quality surveillance data; and a dataset of demographic statistics by zip code.

Open Data was developed to improve accessibility, accountability and transparency of New York City’s public data. It makes the data published by New York City agencies and other partners publically available with the goal of building trust with community members. 

How Filecoin works

The mission of the Filecoin project is to create a decentralized, efficient and robust foundation for humanity’s information. Users who mine these coins contribute storage capacity to be used by Filecoin customers to store data. There are two types of Filecoin miners: Storage miners who store files and data on the network and retrieval miners who provide quick pipes to retrieve files.

Today, more than 3,500 storage providers around the world collectively offer more than 13EiB of storage capacity to the network, according to the Foundation.

The Filecoin Foundation governs the Filecoin network, funds development projects, and supports the growth of the Filecoin ecosystem. The Foundation offers grants to developers interested in building the Filecoin ecosystem or expanding the user base. 

Protocol Labs is an open-source research, development and deployment laboratory and its projects include IPFS, Filecoin and libp2p, a modular networking stack.

10 cities earn data certification

The What Works Cities initiative from Bloomberg Philanthropies awarded data certifications to 10 US cities to recognize their work in using data to inform and improve city operations. Michele Jolin, CEO and co-founder of Results for America, the lead partner in the What Works initiative, said in a press release that these cities offer a roadmap about how to use data that other municipalities can follow as they invest money from the American Rescue Plan Act. 

These cities received the What Works Cities Certification from the Bloomberg Foundation:

  • Baltimore, MD
  • Buffalo, NY
  • Chicago, IL
  • Denver, CO
  • Durham, NC
  • Evanston, IL 
  • Long Beach, CA
  • Miami, FL
  • Rochester, NY
  • Salinas, CA

Jennifer Park, founding director of the What Works Cities Certification, said in a press release the winning cities are improving 911 response times, more small business support, less waste and fewer emissions and greater civic engagement with residents.

Long Beach used data to micro-target over 1,250 COVID-19-impacted local businesses to award more than $700,000 in grants. Salinas launched a program to track and respond to 24 data points to help inform youth and gang violence prevention strategies which resulted in a 60% decline in youth violence.

Durham used data to remove barriers to employment for 46,000 people by suspending fines and fees and restoring residents’ driver’s licenses. Miami deployed a resident-powered app to help map the highest-risk areas for flooding. Buffalo used open data to identify properties in need of lead remediation and secured $2.3 million in federal funds to do so.

Since 2017, 50 cities have achieved National Standard of Excellence in Using Evidence and Data to Improve City Services, Increase Transparency, and Promote Civic Engagement, according to the organization. 

The certification program assesses U.S. cities on data-driven decision-making practices, such as using data to set goals and track progress, allocate funding, evaluate the effectiveness of programs and achieve desired outcomes from contracts with outside vendors. The program also measures whether cities are publicly and transparently communicating about the use of data and evidence. Each city that participates in the certification process receives a customized assessment that identifies their unique strengths and opportunities for improvement. What Works Cities partners then provide coaching, training and technical assistance to help city leaders improve their data and evidence capabilities, adopt new practices related to the certification and drive outcomes for their community.

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