This Week in Civic Tech: White House Computer Science Program Gains Momentum, California Capital City to 'Innovate Your State'

A look back at highlights and happenings in the world of civic tech.

by / September 15, 2016
Jim Kurose, assistant director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) for Computer and Information Science and Engineering, meets with middle school students from Charles County, Md. to hear about their computer science projects. Photo courtesy of NSF

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.

White House Computer Science Program Gains Momentum

Since President Obama instituted his Computer Science for All initiative in January 2015, the White House has been working to incentivize tech education in America’s schools.

The program opened with a commitment from the president to allocate in his 2017 budget $4 billion in funding for states and $100 million for districts to advance computer science resources — with more training for teachers and more educational content for K-12 students. The U.S. is currently struggling with a deficit of skilled computer science professionals, and this push seeks to alleviate some of the burden.

In a blog post on Wednesday, the White House said much has been achieved during the last nine months. Twelve states enacted policy measures to expand computer science education, with 31 states permitting computer science courses to count toward high school graduation. More than 100 organizations have pledged more than $250 million to educational programs, and the U.S. now has an advanced placement course for high school students to leverage for college applications.
 
White House officials also said that the National Science Foundation (NSF) is expanding computer science education with more than $25 million in grants; a new consortium of 180-plus organizations has been formed to provide resources and track progress of the program; and there are additional commitments from more than 200 organizations to further the program's goals.

What is still to be decided is whether the president’s ambitious funding goals will be approved by a Republican-controlled Congress. An answer to this question isn’t likely to come soon, with many political experts and legislators anticipating another continuing resolution to extend the current budget’s spending rates until December.

Sacramento, Calif., Signs Up for Second Round of 'Innovate Your State'

In California's capital city, Innovate Your State — a nonprofit that encourages public participation to improve government outcomes — and the Sacramento Mayor's Office for Innovation and Entrepreneurship are hosting the second annual Civic & Gov Tech Showcase, where civic-minded entrepreneurs, potential investors, and government leaders to showcase innovation.

At 9:30 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 22, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and Innovate Your State Founder and Venture Capitalist Tim Draper will join countless startups that will present their solutions to improve government.

One such startup is Santa Clara-based Ittavi, whose SupportPay app seeks to eliminate conflict around paying child support, the Sacramento Business Journal reported. The platform lets parents cite expenses and make child support payments online.

Johnson has, in recent years, made innovative technology central to his platform. After seeing the new Golden 1 Arena project in the city's downtown area through, he worked to simplify what would most certainly be a traffic nightmare. He announced in July a partnership with urban mobility company Parkeon to design and create an app that would make it easier to locate a parking spot, purchase parking in advance, provide information on space availability, and obtain real-time traffic information. 

And on Sept. 1, the system — called SacPark — went live on the Web. The app is still in development, but is expected to launch in late September.

Jason Shueh former staff writer

Jason Shueh is a former staff writer for Government Technology magazine.