What's New in Civic Tech: Baltimore Innovation Team Looks to Hire Tech Talent

Plus, Philadelphia renames annual civic tech event to broaden engagement, and Boston makes its new open data portal official.

by / March 23, 2017
David Kidd/Government Technology

Baltimore Innovation Team Looks to Hire Tech Talent

Baltimore has announced plans to hire four new members for its Innovation Team, which seeks to tackle systematic challenges in the city such as poverty, homelessness, recruiting public employees and restoring old infrastructure.

The four positions are:

These new hires will work on projects supported by the Bloomberg Philanthropies Innovation Team program, which added Baltimore to its roster of cities in January. The program will award Baltimore with as much as $500,000 annually for the next three years.

Bloomberg Philanthropies is a charitable organization led by New York City’s former billionaire businessman mayor, Michael Bloomberg.

"Mayors must always be looking for new ways to improve the critical services that people depend on," Bloomberg said in a statement announcing Baltimore’s initial addition to the program. "Our Innovation Teams program helps mayors do that by giving city governments around the world the capacity to make their innovative ideas reality."

The program lets mayors fund in-house innovation teams, dubbed i-teams. There are currently more than 20 cities participating in this program, including Boston, Seattle and Los Angeles, as well as smaller cities such as Peoria, Ill.; Long Beach, Calif.; and Jersey City, N.J.

 

Armed with a New Name, Philadelphia Civic Tech Event Looks to Broaden Engagement

An annual Philadelphia civic tech event, formerly known as Democracy Hackathon, is set to begin Friday, March 24, with a new name that emphasizes its focus on pushing past coding to find tech-based ways to solve challenges in the city.

The event is now called Civic Engagement Launchpad, and it will be organized by Code for Philly, as past iterations were. In announcing this year’s event, organizers explained the name change, writing that the word "hacking" can carry a negative connotation outside the tech world, especially this year given ongoing discussion of whether cybermalfeasance by a foreign power swung the presidential election. Removing it could lead to more interest and participation. Plus, organizers hope a broader name will emphasize how their civic tech projects involve more than just writing code.

“Our events include coding but aren’t limited to it,” wrote Pat Woods of Code for Philly. “Civic tech projects bring together a diversity of skill sets to solve hard problems.”

Civic Engagement Launchpad is a monthlong event. It will start with a brainstorming event in Philadelphia City Hall’s Caucus Room, where participants can engage with community members and other local stakeholders to discuss challenges. Work will continue until April 25, when participants will present projects to a panel.

Code for Philly was founded in 2012 as part of Code for America’s inaugural Brigade Program, making it one of the initiative’s most mature brigades. Those interested in participating in this year’s Philadelphia civic tech event can submit project ideas now.

 

Analyze Boston Beta Site to Go Live with an Open Data Challenge

Boston is taking its overhauled open data portal, Analyze Boston, live on April 6, and to highlight the occasion the city is hosting an open data competition for technologists.

Analyze Boston is a new and enhanced portal that aims to make the abundance of open data sets the city releases more relevant and accessible to everyday residents. On the day of the launch, the team behind the platform is holding an event to introduce the work, talk about it and give attendees a glimpse into the future.

This will also mark the start of the Analyze Boston Open Data challenge, a monthlong event in which competitors vie for prizes by sharing analyses, visualizations, models and applications based on the improved data sets. This challenge will culminate in another free all-day event May 6 at District Hall, where participants will have the opportunity to showcase their work. Judges will then choose winners.

Analyze Boston was launched as a beta site earlier this year to solicit feedback and spark discussion. The portal overhaul was another step in the city's ongoing open data commitment. In July 2015, Mayor Marty Walsh announced the Open and Protected Data Policy, which encourages city agencies to publish data sets, while also providing guidance for which information must be protected. In May 2016, Boston hired Andrew Therriault to be its first chief data officer.

Other data efforts in the city include CityScore, executive data dashboards to monitor city performance, a hazard information platform for firefighters called Building Intelligence System, and a data-sharing agreement with Waze that improves traffic flow on the streets.

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.