What’s New in Civic Tech: Long Beach, Calif., Establishes Office of Civic Innovation

Plus, San Antonio hosts its first SmartSA Datathon; Washington D.C., Gigabit DC Challenge seeks mobility solutions; Chicago launches annual flu shot dataset; and political organizing tactics that are also useful in civic tech.

by / October 4, 2018
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Long Beach, Calif., has established a new office of civic innovation within its city manager’s office, according to a press release from the city.

Technologists in the office will serve as in-house consultants to other departments, with a goal of co-creating effective approaches to pressing community issues. The creation of this office comes at the end of a three-year, $3 million grant for the city through a Bloomberg Philanthropies Innovation Team Grant. That money went toward the funding and creation of the Long Beach iTeam, whose work, the city notes, will now evolve through the new Office of Civic Innovation.

The city’s press release went on to outline the efforts and departments the new office expects to coordinate with in FY 2019. They are:

  • African American Cultural Center development
  • Communication design with the Development Services Department
  • Customer experience during the Airport Phase II Improvements
  • Digital inclusion in collaboration with the Technology and Innovation Department
  • Enhancing Long Beach Police recruitment
  • Nuisance Motels Pilot Program
  • Prototyping solutions with Clean Long Beach
  • Smart Cities Pilot with Public Works and Economic Development

The press release also notes that Bloomberg Philanthropies continues to invest in innovation in Long Beach through other initiatives, including the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, What Works Cities and Cities of Service.

San Antonio Hosts City’s First SmartSA Datathon

This is the last week for civic technologists to submit projects to the first-ever SmartSA Datathon competition.

That competition, the deadline for which is midnight Oct. 8, involves the CivTechSA and SmartSA programs partnering to share data sets with the public, who is then invited to use those data sets to propose projects to improve quality of life in the city. The competition is requesting projects be related to three specific areas: transportation, access to services and sustainability. Organizers are requiring teams to be limited to six members.

Eventually, organizers will select as many as seven teams to participate in the Datathon, scheduled for Oct. 19-21 at Geekdom San Antonio. Eligible teams will have a chance to win up to $15,000 as well as to partner with SmartSA to further develop their proposals and ideas.

Interested parties can apply here.

Washington, D.C., Gigabit DC Challenge Seeks Mobility Solutions

The Washington, D.C., Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) is inviting developers and entrepreneurs in the metro area to compete in its Gigabit DC Challenge (GigabitDCx), which is looking for next-generation apps focused on the areas of city mobility and the environment.

It’s really the same sort of idea as San Antonio’s Datathon, in that it’s essentially a competition inviting civic technologists to create something that improves life in the city. The GigabitDCx is, according to its website, “a two-phased, reverse pitch competition in which competitors will submit proposals to develop and demonstrate gigabit app solutions in described focus areas.”

The second phase of this competition will see semi-finalists advancing their projects to the point of building prototypes of their proposed solutions. Those selected by organizers will next have a chance to get one of two final prizes, splitting as much as $34,000 in award money.

In service of developing the projects, participants in the GigabitDCx competition will have mentors as well as access to subject matter experts throughout the process. The competition is currently in its pre-registration phase. It will open for applicants Oct. 12.

In the meantime, interested parties can find a forum and online community via the competition's website.

Chicago Launches its Annual Flu Shot Data Set

Flu season in Chicago is rapidly approaching, and to combat it the city has once again released a data set of flu shot locations.

Chicago has done this annually dating back to 2014 — it’s a listing of free clinics where residents in Chicago can get flu shots, created as a collaboration between Chicago’s data folks and the city’s department of public health.

It’s all open source and can be found here.

6 Political Organizing Tactics Useful in Civic Tech

Finally, I’d just like to call attention this week to a great piece for civic technologists, Bringing Political Organizing Tactics to Civic Tech.

The piece was authored by Veronica Young, who worked on President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, and it’s essentially a primer for civic technologists about how to use successful political organizing strategies to forward their own work.

There are several strong and clear recommendations, including have a strong, engaging mission; set deadlines; appoint a political director; hold events; and know that turnover is normal. The piece, of course, goes into far more detail, but it’s all aimed at helping civic technologists build the sort of viable connections and mission statements they need to make a positive difference in their communities.

Zack Quaintance Staff Writer

Zack Quaintance is a staff writer for Government Technology. Prior to that, he spent five years working in daily newspapers, and another five years working in the tech sector. He lives in Northern California.