This Week in Civic Tech presents a lineup of notable events in the space that connects citizens to government services. Topics cover the latest startups, hackathons, open data initiatives and other influencers. Check back each Friday for updates.
Why are some employers so supportive of work-at-home jobs in public yet so opposed to it in practice? That’s the question Uncle Sam’s digital team at 18F hopes to tackle with a recent post highlighting how its own staff handles their work. 18F’s Front End Designer Michelle Hertzfeld and Communications Specialist Melody Kramer offer nine ways how they and their co-workers — now numbering 220-plus — have adopted what’s called a “remote first” approach to work.
Refreshingly, instead of productivity statistics or lavish maxims, the group gives an actionable tutorial of tips. There’s the suggestion of over-communicating — true, a general principle — but with this are suggestions for tools and techniques like using Slack, a free group messaging app, and making regular updates on work progress to clients and staff. The group dives into video conferencing, documenting meetings and managing time zones on opposite coasts to creating “virtual water coolers,” moments in the day when staff can talk face-to-face in Google hangouts, shared screens and real-time chats. More than a simple endorsement, the example serves as a compelling argument for remote work.
For civic tech startups, finding seed funding can be a hurdle. Harder still is grabbing enough investments to scale operations to corporate levels. OpenGov, a financial transparency platform for government, has beaten the odds with an announcement that it just closed a funding round valued at $25 million. The news was coupled with another announcement that Marc Andreessen, co-founder of the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, has agreed to join OpenGov’s board of directors. Andreessen Horowitz, Formation 8 Partners, Thrive Capital, and AITV drove the round of investments alongside new investors at Glynn Capital, Sound Ventures, entertainer Ashton Kutcher and Intuit Founder Scott Cook.
In a release, OpenGov reported that Andreessen is expected to assist the young company as it continues to develop its cloud platform that gives citizens and officials a simple interactive dashboard to analyze government revenues and expenditures. Counseling on driving sustainable scalability will also be among Andreessen’s duties. Already, the company has been on a path of fast growth, doubling its customer base since January, providing services for more than 500 jurisdictions in 44 states. In 2014, Andreessen Horowitz led the company’s Series B round with an investment of $15 million.
Earlier this month, the California Department of Public Health published a wave of interesting data sets through its open data portal at cdph.data.ca.gov with deaths by ZIP code and gender chief among them. Other data sets released include fruit and vegetable consumption among California adolescents, housing cost burden statistics and food affordability. Though notable by themselves, when paired with additional state stats — such as environmental employment data — it’s likely there’ll be a bevy of new insights. At the moment, the published death statistics are isolated to the years of 2012 and 2013, but as the CDPH opens more, users can expect to harvest trends from the data.
Highly recommended for data enthusiasts, the The Atlantic’s City Lab Summit is headed to London and will be live streamed Oct. 18-20, highlighting an international cast of innovators. The event arrives in London after a previous launch in Los Angeles last year. This year Jim Anderson, the director of government innovation at Bloomberg Philanthropies — who sponsors the event, said open data will be a featured topic from panelists and speakers. The event debuted in New York City in 2013, and this year, seeks to uncover methods mayors and civic tech advocates can use to confront income inequality, encourage public safety, spur mobility and harness infrastructure. Chicago CIO Brenna Berman, Co-Chair of the Boston Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics Nigel Jacob, and former New York Mayor and investor Michael Bloomberg are scheduled to present.
Jason Shueh is a former staff writer for Government Technology magazine.