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Civic Tech Roundup: December 15, 2016

Hi folks – this was slated for publication on December 15 but got held up in reviews due to approving staff out of office. We’re publishing today (December 20) but the content is written for December 15 publication. You can expect the next edition on December 29.

Seattle happenings

  • Today’s civic tech-focused edition of local newsletter The Evergrey featured Open Seattle and its lead organizer/founder, Seth Vincent. After highlighting the projects Open Seattle has worked on since late 2012, the authors note that, “today Open Seattle is at a crossroads. After the election we just had, people around the city want to work together in what feels like drastically uncertain times. And Open Seattle, which has struggled to complete some of its projects and to draw a broad selection of people to design and lead them, is looking for new energy.” Tuesday’s Meetup focused on the future of the group. You have until January 17 to apply to be an organizer of Open Seattle.
  • Seattle Department of Transportation’s Winter Weather Map was highlighted by several media outlets as we faced the first snow of the year last Friday. To facilitate the creation of similar tools, including by members of the community, the City plans to release the data behind this map as open data by the end of 2016.

National news

  •  We’re not the only ones who did a recap of the Code for America Summit. The GovEx DataPoints podcast offered a full review as well, noting that the nation is moving beyond “cute visualizations” or a straightforward transparency agenda to more significant work with public data that influences policy and processesA. “People are now going deeper and thinking about how they can solve major problems with their data,” noted Sheila Dugan, a senior program officer at GovEx. StateScoop also covered Jazmyn Latimer’s work on Clear My Record, which she presented at the Summit.
  • There’s no slowing of interest in civic hacking as a mechanism for addressing seemingly intractable problems through technology. There were two major civic hackathons already this month – the Jersey City Hackathon for Sustainability and a hackathon around foster care in NYC.
  • Civic User Testing groups (or CUT groups) are taking off nationally as civic tech makers seek to ensure that new tech tools are usable for the wide range of people who depend on them. Some have been launched by community groups, as in the case of Code for Miami, while others are led by organizations such as Smart Chicago, which created the model. (GovTech)

New tools

  • The AllTransit database brings together data from multiple agencies and cities to make it easier to see how well particular areas are served by public transit – identifying “transit deserts” and seeing how transit maps to jobs, among other applications. Check out the Housing and Transportation Affordability Index, which provides a more robust picture of housing affordability that includes transportation costs and could be useful for activists and city planners. (GovTech)

On the horizon

  • Autonomous vehicles. And with them, many questions about how cities will respond to them and the 2 petabytes of data they are expected to generate each year and whether regulations will remain consistent across jurisdictions. Two Chicago aldermen have introduced legislation to block fully autonomous vehicles from using roadways within the city limits. Automakers are hoping for the federal government to set regulations so that the same autonomous vehicles could be used across the United States, limiting the ability of individual cities and states to create separate regulations that could influence manufacturing and technology development. The current Department of Transportation leadership supports mandating vehicle-to-vehicle or “V2V” communications to help prevent collisions. Meanwhile, Google’s self-driving car project has spun out into its own company, Waymo, which continues to use data to make the case that self-driving cars could be safer than those governed by humans. With the launch of the new company and site, the detailed monthly reports have disappeared; it remains to be seen whether any sort of mandate around transparency (e.g. releases of crash data) will be part of future regulations.

Upcoming events

Official City events:

  • Thursday, December 15, 5:30-8:30 pm @ Substantial in Capitol Hill: “Let It Snow: Community Design Workshop.” (Full)

Community events with a civic tech component:

  • Wednesday, December 14, 6:00-9:00 pm @ Socrata: “Designing Open Seattle’s Role in Civic Tech Post-Election.” Free. (RSVP)
  • Wednesday, January 25, 10:00-11:30 am @ Impact Hub Seattle: “Community Cross-Pollinators: Technology + Social Impact.” Free. (RSVP)

If you’d like to suggest events or content, please email us at