Final Project Progress 4/18

After struggling to prove value-add to NYC’s already extensive efforts to accurately represent its constituents in data (NYC opendata) and its use of that data to preserve & develop low income housing (NYC HPD), we’ve shifted a layer above data-collection into data-analysis and generalized our problem from low income housing to any problem that the data reveals as pressing.

Poor communities remain in such dire conditions because they’re afflicted not by one or two clearly definable problems, but a tangled web of delicate issues that compound in ways that makes themselves visible (sometimes) only in big data.

Our solution: an online platform that provides a comprehensive framework and toolset for community leaders to collect and analyze quantitative and qualitative data so that they may figure out their community’s most pressing needs in order for it to be presented to decision makers in a convincing and professional way.

We’ve taken much inspiration from the Citizen’s Committee for Children’s approach to uncovering the underlying issues that plagues Brownsville.  Their document “From Strengths to Solutions: An Asset-Based Approach to Meeting Community Needs in Brownsville” has guided us in creating a constructive approach to identifying problems with a neighborhood.

We spent the day brainstorming how the problem-uncovering process would work, step-by-step, and then created accompanying (very) rough prototypes:

I/we our platform being a combination of two things: an IDEO how-to manual on design research and TurboTax (!).

The platform will have informative guidance on how to approach need/problem finding, and then the platform will have guided input forms that will visualize the data inputed in real time in a way that simplifies a very complex and convoluted process.


Final Project Progress

We spent the week making better sense of our problem, urbanization, and figuring out where and how it manifests in New York City.

Urbanization in third world nations hits hardest in the poorest communities, where residents struggle to find livable housing conditions, usually slums.  This is the area we chose to focus on.  To find a similar place in NYC, you would look to see where residents find difficulty in securing safe, sanitary, adequately spacious, and semi-permanent housing.  The closest likeness, we decided, was low income housing in all its many forms.

Low income housing is housing that is affordable to those making roughly 30-80% of an area’s median income.  These units are often public housing or private housing built or propped up by government subsidies.

We seek to find a solution for those that struggle to find or live in low income housing.  Their problem can be broken down into three: supply of low income housing does not meet demand, low income housing is even still too costly, and, of course, the income they earn does not allow for more adequate housing.

I think, for this project, we will be focusing on the first two.


I am not sure how much accurate representation will help in solving the ills of urbanization and the creation of low income housing.  After some research, it was clear low income housing fails to meet demand because it is too often unprofitable for real estate developers, who opt to pay penalties instead of sinking time and resources into unglamorous projects.  Solving the issue of supply for low income housing means somehow making the math work for a real estate developer trying to balance building cost with below-market rent.

But perhaps accurate representation *can* help focus low income housing efforts towards the right communities in the most effective way.

We have reached out to 7 entities familiar with low income housing in NYC:
Rep. Rafael Espinal
Rep. Yvette Clarke
Rep D. Mealy
NYC Housing Preservation & Development (HPD), Open Data Department
NYC HPD, Maria Torrest Springer
And 2 people at the NYC Department of Homeless Services

Hopefully they have ideas on solutions.

So far, only one has contacted us back: Maggie Raife, the Director of Business Intelligence and Data Innovation – we’ll be speaking with her on Friday.

Final Project Idea Progress

Our group spent the majority of this week doing more thorough research of our problem space: urbanization.  We familiarized ourselves with the different aspects of urbanization – infrastructure, basic services, transportation, violence & hazards, and connectivity – and did further research into these fields by finding related articles online.  Throughout the process, we’ve been referring back to a PDF sent to us by Tanya, written by UNICEF, that provides a comprehensive overview of urbanization and its many facets.  After research and review, our group naturally gravitated toward the issue of connectivity, highlighted in the UNICEF handbook as a relevant concern, and used the article’s “statement of need” and “prompts” as a framework for our work going forward.

Our problem: Representation.

We are deciding to focus on accurately representing slum-dwellers in data that is used to plan for the future and having them actively represented in government so that they may participate in the planning of their cities and futures.


  1. Articles that we’ve shared and read together over the week:
    Street violence and exploitation in slums:
    Poor disaster preparedness:
    Indoor & outdoor air pollution:


  2. more inclusive system diagrams:

Researh for Final Project Idea

I don’t have many enlightened and helpful ideas on the topic of urbanization in developing countries, but my best so far, or at least most interesting to me at the moment, is a chatbot that helps people in the process of or considering moving from a rural to an urban area.  (This idea might be different from what my other group members discuss in their blog posts.)  Perhaps a telecom company incorporates our chatbot platform (for a fee!) into their services and can make free those texts used by ruralites sent to the chatbot(goodbye net neutrality!) who’re interested in moving to an urban area in an attempt to increase its user base and provide more offerings once that ruralite urbanizes and increases his buying power.

  1. What is the Big Problem (i.e. Affects 1 b. People)
  2. What is the specific problem (So this affects 1b people… where is a specific concrete starting point where you see the need most)
    Providing assistance to those considering or dealing with a potential or current move to an urban area
  3. What’s a link between that and the environment you’re living (i.e. “Something closer to home”)
    I don’t believe there exists an instance of urbanization in America whose severity of problems compares to those seen in urbanization of developing countries.
  4. What types of 100B$ technology *might* be able to impact this (broad stroke – think crazy)
    A service that aids those with the process of urbanizing and stabilizing their life after that process is finished.
  5. 3-5 links of resources that you have researched that specifically speak to you about this problem

    How to stop your chatbot falling into the “uncanny valley”

Week 5 (Readings)

I did the readings and don’t have questions for them except for “Republic of Georgia To Pilot Land Titling On Blockchain…”:
It seems to me that blockchain technology, in cases used specifically as a ledger, is most helpful when used in high frequency environments across a sprawling network (e.g. “Tracking Tuna on the Blockchain”, tracking taxes collected and spending by big government); isn’t using the blockchain for tracking land transactions, which happen on a scale of years, completely overkill?  Is corruption or shady tactics in Georgia so far off that they need a high-tech., *distributed* ledger system in order for these records to remain true?  Using it as a “notary service” will only be as secure as the precautions they put in place…won’t they end up with a process just as slow as what exists now?  If a government is ready enough to implement blockchain infrastructure into their real estate market, aren’t they capable of legitimate land transactions?

Week 4

The Death of Charities:
Blockchain is often used in transactions where anonymity is paramount.  How can blockchain be both anonymous & transparent?  Are these “settings” established at the beginning and on a case by case basis for every blockchain type?
How valuable do you see Bitcoin becoming?  (@~$1000 now per btc)
What is the difference between a mobile money service and, say, Paypal?
From Shore to Plate:
the strength of this system’s integrity is only s strong as the certainty of the blockchain being attached to the appropriate fish.  how do they make this happen?  how do you possibly keep pieces of tuna assigned the correct blockchain throughout this entire process?
a processing plant receiving tuna from non blockchain participating fisherman and participating fisherman.

Week 3 (Challenge)

All existing telecommunication networks are down. A message needs to be delivered from ITP, 721 Broadway, to UNICEF HQ, 3 UN Plaza, in under 15 minutes. How can you make sure it reaches its destination? What are three alternatives ways with their relative timings/difficulties?

When thinking about this question, we came up with a bunch of ideas and categorized them in unrealistic, realistic, unprepared, and prepared ideas.

Send Message

walkie talkie
smoke signals
semaphore line

Prepared for Blackout
courier pigeon
missile > parachute
analog uber
build a bridge
over traffic buses
monster truck

motorcycle / scooter
subway & sprinting
hail a cab
NYU security / golf cart
police car
passing package
remote control car

hot air balloon
sling shot
hand off package to UPS
flying car
paper airplane

hover board

We concluded that out of all these ideas the top three that would the most efficient, would be:

  1. Biking – the most realistic as most people have a bike, and is easy to guide. On Google Maps, it says that it takes 19 minutes to nike from ITP, to the UNICEF HQ, so we figured that 19 minutes could become 15 minutes if we biked really fast.
  2. Drones – as we have read in our readings, Drones are relatively cheap (and becoming cheaper) to deliver packages, and thus it would be an efficient to use in this circumstance. However, it would have to be used with a remote control if the GPS is down.
  3. Walkie Talkie’s – If we were delivering a message, and NOT a package, walkie talkie’s can be used without relying on telecomm existent infrastructure. It’s important to also note that this would mean that both ITP and UNICEF HQ have walkie talkies.

In an attempt to try one of these out, we strapped a GoPro on Kenzo’s head and he tried to bike ride to the UNICEF HQ.

But the gopro battery died on the way!
He turned around…we waited for the battery pack to recharge, but it got dark.
If we’re still working on the challenge next week, we’ll get it done.

PACKAGE 2 THE UN ! from Kenzo Nakamura on Vimeo.

 Butt crack!

Week 3 (Reading Response)

Designing Field Trial Protocols in Ethiopia for Pneumonia Diagnostic Devices:
burden on hospitals an unexpected factor
diagnostic innovations & target product profile…interesting!
“Fit for purpose means devices are appropriate for low-resource settings and use by community and healthcare providers with a broad range of literacy levels and training.”
Aerial Damage Assessment Following Hurricane Sandy
excellent product focused user research!
was this just a research project? private, public?
is this / will this be used by the government?
Mobile Technologies & Community Case Management
How would DHL or Nokia handle Community Case Management challenges?  This approach, getting into the mindset of someone w/ a different perspective, is one I like to use and I find that it yields interesting results.

Week 2

Principles of Innovation in Action:
What was the situation that forced the hand of UNICEF executives to build out an innovation team?

if a problem requires a design that is inherently not scalable,  do you still participate in the project?
it’s hard to count tesla as an open source company when one of the stipulations for using their patents is that they can then use any patent that belongs to that other company

Social Media Fingerprints of Unemployment:
has their model been proven to be accurate for other countries?

it looks like we’ll be working on some big data projects?  I’m excited to work on how we can infer things from data, but apprehensive as I have no experience

for spain, the penetration rate was the best predictor of socio economic status:

Fake News Is Not the Only Problem:
isn’t fake news really one parts real news, four parts fake news already?
I’m curious how does this specifically relates to our class.  Has fake news hurt 3rd world communities?
what programs is he using?  they look cool!…and powerful

how do you, and who gets to test the potential bias of such an algorithmic system?

Unicef Video:
interesting concept: a minimum number of kilobytes per person per day that people need access to, to be equals in this world

Design Thinking Workshop:
I threw my packet from the design thinking workshop away : /

Questions for our guest speakers:
In what ways are governments now using big data?
What are your favorite success stories of big data?  That might have gotten you interested in the field?
What are your favorite accessible data sets?
How do you approach a big data project?  What do you look for first?  Do you work from a problem first, or do you just try to find what you can from a big data set?
What are some ethical challenges when working with big data?  Is a company knowing more about you than yourself ethical?