Welcome to the Civic Tech Roundup! If you’d like to suggest content, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Mayor Ed Murray just gave his much-anticipated speech detailing the proposed budget, which includes $245 million for IT spending, including for investments in civic technology, open data, and public engagement tools. Read CTO Michael Mattmiller’s message in full or watch the speech on the Seattle Channel.
- Just after our last roundup, StateScoop posted an article about the City of Seattle’s recently published Open Data Playbook, featuring an interview with our Director of Digital Engagement, Jim Loter. Read it here.
- Civic Hall’s Rethinking Debates project released a new report on technologies and platforms that are transforming the way we think about debates, including the efforts of Seattle CityClub. Read the report, learn more about CityClub, or find out about the Washington State Debate Coalition, which is using Microsoft Pulse to engage audiences during statewide debates.
- Paris hosted a Smart Cities exhibition this week, showcasing high-impact initiatives from all over the world. DevEx wrote up an overview of four of them: Missing Maps (filling in gaps in data on Open Street Map), CoCity, Smart Favela, and One Heart Spots. Read it here.
- San Francisco’s Startup-in-Residence program (STiR) just had its demo day, featuring teams that worked with 6 different city agencies to improve their work. Learn more about the teams and watch the entire demo day event.
- Two investors in Chicago just launched a new $15 million startup fund for civic technology startups called Ekistic Ventures. Read about the effort or visit their site.
- The Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development created a Displacement Alert Project Map for New York City “designed to show where residential tenants may be facing significant displacement pressures and where affordable apartments are most threatened,” building by building. Explore the map or read about the project.
- Mississippi’s Secretary of State released a new tool called Y’all Vote. Read GovTech’s summary or check it out.
- A new open source tool from Chicago called Chi Safe Path allows anyone to report hazards on sidewalks and public walkways – and the data goes directly to the City of Chicago’s 311 services. See it here.
- In “Discrimination by Design,” ProPublica journalist Lena Groeger explores how discrimination shows up in the design of everything from Snapchat filters to the height of overpasses. It’s a must-read for anyone who designs systems, including government officials and technologists who aim to do civic good.
- Krzysztof Madejski from Code for Poland and and Transparan-CEE wrote an excellent overview of legislative monitoring tools, “Monitoring and Engaging with Democratic Processes.” The article focuses on Central & Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and Eurasia, but has insights for anyone exploring legislative transparency.
- MySociety’s Myfanwy Nixon shared her organization’s process for recruiting and selecting new trustees in “Recruiting for Diversity: This much we know.” She explains why diversity matters for their organization, how they have attempted to address it, and invites feedback from anyone who has ever considered not applying to a job there for related reasons. They key takeaway: “Where there is no strategy, it allows a status quo to prevail.”
- Fast Company‘s CoExist blog dove into “The Different Paths Los Angeles and San Francisco Are Taking to Spur Civic Innovation,” highlighting the two city government’s different approaches to engaging startups to improve government services. The key takeaway: There’s no right answer, but “cities need to innovate how they function internally even as they forge external partnerships with startups, tech companies, and private sector professionals, who are bringing in valuable, new ideas to innovate public services.”
On the horizon
Civic tech is not as much about technological innovation as it is about applying cutting-edge technologies to the important civic and social questions of our time. I’m adding this section as a way to share breakthroughs that could quickly have applications in civic tech. Let me know what you think!
- “One of these days, the walls may know when you’re happy, sad, stressed or angry.” That’s the lede from a recent Wall Street Journal article about new technology from MIT called EQ-Radio, which uses an extremely lo-fi radio system to detect physiological changes in the bodies in a room that indicate a change of mood. Said one of the researchers, Dr. Dina Katabi, “All of us share so much in how our emotions affect our vital signs … We get an accuracy that is so high that we can look at individual heartbeats at the order of milliseconds.”
Events with official City involvement:
- October 6, 8-9: Zoohackathon
Community events with a civic tech component:
- September 29 and October 6, 4:00 pm: Microsoft Civic Tech Happy Hour @ Impact Hub Seattle, 220 Second Ave (weekly, every Thursday)
- October 7-9: Team Child hackathon
- October 7-9: AWS Alexa Open Data Skills Challenge
- October 14-16: Seattle GiveCamp
- October 15-16: DubHacks (students only)
- November 4-6: Kirkland Smart City Startup Weekend
- November 5: Lady Problems Hackathon