Taking Predictive Analytics to the Beach

For Chicagoans, few things are as enjoyable as a day at the beach. That joy, however, is contingent on clean waters that are free of contaminants such as E. coli bacteria. This year, Chicago is piloting an analytical model to enhance its Park District’s regular beach water quality inspection process. The model aims to predict which beaches may need to close based on likely E. Coli contamination, which will help protect the public by providing more timely advisories.

This is not the city’s first municipal predictive analytics project: Chicago has had success with predictive models for rodent baiting operations and food establishment inspections, among other areas. It is, however, the first built entirely by a team of volunteers from Chicago’s civic tech community.

The work of these civic-minded “citizen data scientists” signals a maturation in the relationship between Chicago’s local government and its civic tech community. It also offers both questions and insights into how such a relationship could potentially evolve towards a new partner-driven model for advancing municipal analytics initiatives.

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