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Urban Forum: Can Data Deliver? Harnessing Data-Driven Solutions for Urban Challenges

On April 19, 2023 the Urban Forum returned to being in person. Its panels' and speakers' wide range of perspectives considered the availability of vast amounts of data from and about cities offers great potential to address urban challenges. However, large and serious questions challenge this potential. Do governments and civic institutions have the capacity to effectively gather, analyze, and interpret data to inform better urban planning and decision-making? What does it mean to utilize data in a fair and equitable way? Should data be used to inform AI and other cutting-edge technologies?


Panel #1 The Potential for Data to Deliver: What is big data and how is it being used to shape our cities?

This panel will focus on how panelists see data being used to inform decision-making while empowering communities and residents in powerful and fundamentally new ways. Panelists will be asked to share or reference specific efforts/initiatives that show promise, or include examples from their institutions or organizations while identifying the capacities and resources required for such initiatives to be successful.

Moderated by Fredric Mitchell, Principal, Bright Plum, Inc, and featuring:

Federica Fusi, Assistant Professor, Public Policy, Management and Analytics, College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, UIC

Nick Lucius, CTO, City of Chicago

Laurie Merrell, Senior Analytics Engineer, Jarvus Innovations & Board Member, Chi Hack Night


Panel #2 Principles of Equity, Privacy and Security: How can data be utilized effectively while also preserving our values?

This discussion focuses on the dangers of relying too heavily on quantitative data alone to inform decision-making, as well as the trade-offs inherent in ensuring equity, protecting privacy, preventing misuse and securing data. Panelists will consider how much risk is too much, and whether it is possible to have data not replicate bias and reinforce systemic racism and other inequities.

Moderatored by Adam Hecktman, Founder/Chief Data Architect, For Good Advisory, and featuring:

Daniel Anello, CEO, Kids First Chicago

Rosaella Branson, Chief Data Officer, Cook County Government, Bureau of Technology

Omar Duque, President, Hispanic Information Technology Executive Council


Keynote Derek Eder, Founder and Partner; Datamade; President Emeritus and Board Member, Chi Hack Night


Click here to learn more.


About the UIC Urban Forum

As a major research university in the heart of one of the world’s greatest cities, the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) is truly a global institution. As such, UIC has taken a lead role in convening scholars, public intellectuals, policymakers and elected officials to discuss, analyze and propose pragmatic and innovative solutions that will enhance the lives of city-dwellers around the globe.

The UIC Forum has evolved over the years. Its roots date back to 1995, when the first Forum was convened under the direction of UIC’s Great Cities Institute. In 2005, and for the following five years, UIC partnered with the City of Chicago and the Daley Family to host what was then called the UIC Richard J. Daley Urban Forum. Now, under the direction of the UIC College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs (CUPPA), the UIC Urban Forum will continue the tradition of hosting a national event designed to advance the dialogue about the future of urban communities.