What’s New in Civic Tech: Chicago Launches CityKey ID Card Aimed at Unlocking Services

Plus, deadline approaches for Startup in Residence program’s first national class; Syracuse, N.Y., expands breadth of info available through its open data portal; and civic technologists in Oklahoma hold prison data hackathon.

by Zack Quaintance / December 21, 2017
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Chicago has launched a new ID card program called CityKey, which aims to make it easier for residents to get government-issued identification as well as to enjoy many of the institutions and services that the city has to offer.

CityKey is a government-issued ID available to all 2.7 million residents of Chicago, and it also doubles as a library card, transit card and benefits card for local culture, sports teams and businesses. CityKey is being offered through the office of the city clerk, and its genesis dates back to a task force that was launched in 2015 to examine obstacles many Chicagoans face when obtaining government-issued IDs.

“Every Chicagoan wants to unlock the potential of themselves and their City,” the city wrote in a press release announcing CityKey. “The Chicago CityKey is about connecting all Chicagoans physically and figuratively to our City and each other, whether it’s unlocking new cultural opportunities or the key to getting a job. It is the key, the connection and the catalyst that unlocks the potential of our great City and all those that call it home.”

The first cards are being printed this month as part of a pilot, with plans for the program to be launched in full in spring 2018. To apply, citizens must show proof of identity and residency. It is available to everyone, regardless of age, and plans call for a permanent card printer at city hall, as well as pop-up enrollment sites at community events, farmers markets and aldermanic offices.

Deadline approaches for Startup in Residence program’s first national class

The deadline for the first national cohort of the Startup in Residence (STiR) program is rapidly approaching, with interested entrepreneurs asked to have applications in before Jan. 1, 2018.

In order to apply, technologists must respond to a challenge that has been issued by one of the participating city government departments. If an applicant is successful, it will then partner with the public servants in that department, working to address the relevant challenge throughout the course of the 16-week program. In total, 12 government participants have submitted 37 civic challenges in need of solutions from startups, and a frequently asked questions list is online now.

The challenges span a wide range of departments, topics and geographic locations, ranging from a smart parking application requested by Miami-Dade County, Fla., to a contract tracking and management process needed by Walnut Creek, Calif.

This year marks the first time STiR will take place in cities and counties beyond Northern California, with a list of new participants that includes Boulder, Colo.; Houston; Miami-Dade County, Fla.; Richmond, Va.; and Washington, D.C., It also includes six jurisdictions in California — San Francisco, Santa Cruz County, Santa Monica, Vallejo, Walnut Creek and West Sacramento — and one public agency, the San Francisco region’s municipal transportation commission.  

For some partners, the application may also serve as a request for proposal (RFP), which is fitting because STiR’s mission is to facilitate better working relationships between startups and government, and navigating the RFP process is often cited as a barrier between such collaboration.

Syracuse, N.Y., expands breadth of info available through its open data portal

Months after Syracuse, N.Y., launched its first open data portal, the city has now expanded the breadth of info available through the platform, adding sets about crime, fire and code enforcement.

Outgoing Syracuse Mayor Stephanie A. Miner made the announcement this week, noting that the crime and fire incident sets being added to the portal, which is called DataCuse, can detail what’s happening at a block level. City budget data is also being made available for the first time in a format that users can easily search through and analyze. In terms of the new code enforcement data, Syracuse has now added building permits and code violations.

“Every day, people want to know how the city addresses quality of life in their neighborhoods. While we strive to deliver services, we must let people know how it is happening,” Miner said in a statement on Facebook. “This will give Syracuse residents the opportunity to see firsthand some of the crucial work their city government is doing in neighborhoods.”

The initial data that was on the portal when it launched during the summer provided facts about infrastructure and housing, including info about lead risks, vacant properties, road ratings, potholes, water main breaks and requests made to Syracuse’s CityLine. This all comes after an open data policy was proposed in Syracuse in April, crafted with the help of public comments, the Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University.

Civic technologists in Oklahoma hold prison data hackathon

A recent hackathon in Oklahoma brought together more than 30 coders, community organizers and journalists for a daylong event aimed at addressing the state’s high rate of female incarceration.

The hackathon was hosted by Code for Tulsa, which is that city’s Code for America brigade, and Asemio, a technology consulting company that is headquartered in Tulsa. The two groups worked in partnership with the Center for Investigative Reporting, which detailed the event on its website. The other major participating organization was Women in Recovery, which is run by the Tulsa-based advocacy group Family & Children’s Services and is an outpatient alternative for eligible women who face long prison sentences.

The event included testimony from enrollees in the Women in Recovery Program, work with recently released prison data acquired by The Center for Investigative Reporting and the brainstorming and collaboration that is inherent to the hackathon concept. Dubbed Design + Data, the hackathon will now evolve into participants doing follow-up work and providing updates about the tools and other ideas that were born out of the day. The hope is that this will lead to sustained progress in Oklahoma, which for the past 25 years has been the top state for incarcerating women, as well as throughout the rest of the country.

“Reveal and Code for Tulsa hope to make the Design + Data Hackathon a national model for building technical capacity in both local newsrooms and civic institutions and inviting the people behind the data into the reporting process,” the Center for Investigative Reporting wrote on its website.