This Week in Civic Tech presents a line-up of notable events in the space that connects citizens to government services. Topics cover latest startups, hackathons, open data initiatives and other influencers. Check back each week for updates.
GoCode Colorado, the state’s open data competition, has awarded three startups $25,000 each to develop solutions in the areas of employment, fast food delivery and energy regulation.
The competition, coordinated by the Colorado Secretary of State’s office from February to May, brought technologists and entrepreneurs together to brainstorm and hatch business ideas around Colorado’s open data. After a round of service and product pitches on May 27, a panel of judges selected the startups Hively, Foodcaster and Regulation Explorer as winners.
Hively, based in Colorado Springs, specializes in job matching services to pair company cultures with prospective candidates. Regulation Explorer, located in Fort Collins, assists oil and gas companies — a major industry in the state’s economy — to find approved and convenient drilling sites. And Foodcaster, based in Denver, offers a mobile app for food truck drivers to identify potential selling locations.
The three startups were chosen out of a field of 35 teams and 10 finalists. Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams said the competition, now in its third year, was about cultivating an emerging community of open data advocates, something participants had embraced during the course of the contest.
“Teams participating in the challenge demonstrated what innovators and entrepreneurs can accomplish with open data, creativity and collaboration,” Williams said in a press release. “It’s great to see a statewide community established around Go Code Colorado.”
The Republican National Committee is worried about Donald Trump’s indifference toward data.
The policy news site The Hill reported that RNC leadership views their presumptive nominee’s lack of proficiency in campaign analytics as a potential threat to his political ambitions. Trump told the Associated Press last month he thought a dependence on data for political campaigning was “overrated.” He asserted that while data had some value, it ultimately did not surpass the virtues of a strong personality.
The "candidate is by far the most important thing," Trump told AP, and said his data usage during the general campaign would be “limited,” focusing instead on rallies, television exposure and social media.
He went on to credit Obama’s presidential wins — victories many campaign experts have marked as revolutionary in terms of data usage — to the president’s character appeal to voters.
"Obama got the votes much more so than his data processing machine, and I think the same is true with me," Trump said.
But it’s hard to say whether this disregard for data is more political posturing or a real belief. Trump’s campaign has tried to paint the controversial business man as an anti-establishment disruptor, and feigning a disregard for analytics would go hand in hand with that persona. Either way, the RNC doesn’t want to take chances, especially when Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are eagerly engaged in such data practices.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has spoken personally with Trump about the issue, and the RNC plans to step in with a team of data experts should there be an issue.
Strong bipartisan support continues to propel the OPEN (Open, Permanent, Electronic and Necessary) Government Data Act through Congress. The bill, if passed, would not only encourage agencies to publish non-classified information online, something the White House has already done in an executive order, but requires them by to do so by law.
The Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee unanimously approved the legislation with bipartisan support on May 25, and the bill, already in review by the House, heads to the full Senate for approval.
Key stipulations in the bill will require agencies to publish their non-private or classified information in a an open, searchable and machine-readable format. The law further directs agencies to maintain an inventory of all their data, information that would feed into the U.S. open data portal on Data.gov.
In a post commending the committee’s decision, the Sunlight Foundation said the law’s passage, among other benefits, would improve government services, heighten accountability, stimulate business growth and enhance academic learning.
Jason Shueh is a former staff writer for Government Technology magazine.