What's New in Civic Tech takes a look at highlights and recent happenings in the world of civic technology.

Center for Data Innovation Lays Out 10 Steps for Congress to Accelerate Innovation

Noting that data is vital to “both growing the economy and addressing important social problems," the Center for Data Innovation has laid out 10 steps for Congress to accelerate innovation related to its namesake cause.

In a straightforwardly titled document, dubbed 10 Steps Congress Can Take to Accelerate Data Innovation, the nonprofit and nonpartisan center outlined concrete steps for 2017 that could enhance how data in the United States is collected, shared and used. All of the included points are actionable, and, the center said, would boost the public, industry or government. While noting that the document was not an exhaustive list of the things that could be done, the language stressed that it sought to provide the most timely and vital plan of its kind for data innovation.

These steps, which the center also points out have often already withstood scrutiny en route to garnering bipartisan support, are split into information about the problem, along with a suggested solution to solve it. They are broadly identified as follows:

Establish a permanent open data policy for the federal government

Allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture to publicly release common land unit data

Establish an API for legislative data

Develop a complete 3-D national elevation data set

Require corporate data transparency

Address the LGBT data gap

Adopt universal patient identifiers for health care

Incentivize adoption of electronic health records for mental health providers

Foster use of alternative credit data

Ensure consumers can access their utility data

The recommendations come amid ongoing criticism of the Trump administration’s handling of transparency and open data.


Federal Elections Commission Launches New Website

The Federal Elections Commission has updated its website, www.fec.gov, which seeks to make it easier for visitors to browse campaign data and search legal resources, among other things.

The new site is currently offering a tour of added features through a banner link on the top of its homepage. Such features include a glossary to search for the definitions of unfamiliar words; reorganized and simplified main sections; a section for news about the latest FEC-related updates; streamlined resources for the press; a search function to track financial info; and much more.

This new website was built in partnership with the federal digital consultancy 18F, which helps agencies buy, build and share modern software using agile development and human-centered design.

In a pair of tweets, 18F congratulated the FEC on its new site, saying it had been “an incredible partner” committed to agile, open source, user-centered design and cloud infrastructure.

This collaboration has been in the works for some time. As part of the project, 18F versed itself in the world of arcane financial regulations and outdated data systems to create beta.FEC.gov, a site that tested the new features, additions and other features before the official version went live.

“When 18F started talking to stakeholders and users, we learned that users were often worried they hadn’t found the right information, all the information, or the most up-to-date information when navigating the site,” Leah Bannon and Noah Manger, who were members of 18F at the time, wrote in a joint post.

Portland Signs Open Data Ordinance

Portland, Ore., City Council has adopted an open data ordinance that will establish an open data policy and program in the city, a move that marks the culmination of a resolution declaring Portland’s commitment to open data back in 2009.

In a release, the city described the council's passing of the ordinance as “enthusiastic,” saying the move will improve public trust, build civic engagement and begin a process to create policy that will make the city’s data more accessible for the community. The council voted to adopt the ordinance on Wednesday, May 3, and the Mayor Ted Wheeler has been supportive.

“In 2009, Portland was the very first jurisdiction to declare its commitment to open data,” Wheeler said in the release. “Portland continues to be on the cutting edge, now taking this important next step to set up policies to implement an open data program in the city.”

City officials expect other benefits to include reducing the time staff must spend responding to data requests and growing the likelihood of data-driven innovation in the private sector. Another result of the ordinance is the formation of a data governance team, which will include representatives from multiple bureaus, who will determine the overall direction of the newly formed open data program, while also developing more specific data sharing policies.

Portland is not alone with its open data ordinance. For more information about where such measures stand in the rest of the country, click here.