What’s New in Civic Tech: Google’s Waze Expands Carpooling App to All 50 States

Plus, Arnold Foundation RFP seeks to reimagine America’s crisis response system; Los Angeles expands its cybersecurity lab; Atlanta launches a new Fix-It ATL public request campaign; and Code for America’s Brigade Network responds to Hurricane Michael.

by / October 11, 2018

Google’s Waze Carpool app has now expanded 50 states, focusing as it grows on facilitating ride-sharing among Amazon employees.

This news, first reported by TechCrunch, came earlier this week to coincide with a nationwide rollout of Waze’s carpool app, which will soon be available at 50 Amazon Fulfillment Centers. The app is designed to connect drivers with commute partners, essentially facilitating the creation of carpools. This marks the culmination of an ongoing expansion effort that has seen the Waze carpool app grow significantly from trial markets like San Francisco and Sacramento, Calif., all across a number of states, including California, Texas, Massachusetts and Washington.

Those who have used other ride-hailing services will find some familiar touches in the Waze carpool app, including star ratings. There are, however, additional layers that make Waze Carpool unique, including a focus on pairing groups via things like profiles, mutual friends and a wide range of customizable fields like gender, co-worker, classmate and proximity to travel routes.

All payments are handled within the app, which also has the functionality to schedule up to seven days in advance. Waze Carpool is, of course, available via both iOS and Android.

As those in civic tech and gov tech circles are likely aware of by now, the Waze app has been an increasingly relevant platform as far as community transportation issues are concerned. Waze has an ongoing history of partnering with local government as well as with major gov tech stakeholders such as Esri.

Laura and John Arnold Foundation RFP Seeks to Reimagine America’s Crisis Response System

The Laura and John Arnold Foundation has a new RFP titled Reimagining America’s Crisis Response Systems, in which it stresses the need for governments to have better “data, tools and systems” while asking for proposals aimed at bolstering emergency crisis response.

The central conceit of the foundation’s RFP is a common one in government: that it is easier and more cost efficient to pre-emptively treat individuals in communities who suffer from mental illness, substance abuse or homelessness, than it is to have police, fire and other emergency responders get involved when those afflictions lead to a crisis.

“[The foundation’s] ultimate goal is to identify and scale effective, preventative treatment and services in lieu of justice system involvement,” the group wrote in its RFP. “However, as we work toward that goal, we believe there is a significant opportunity to leverage moments of contact with first responders to redirect vulnerable people facing charges away from places where treatment is typically unavailable — such as jails and hospital emergency departments — and towards places that have specialized recovery services …”

This is a concept that has previously spurred data-driven pre-emptive programs in some of the nation’s more forward-thinking jurisdictions, specifically San Francisco.

This new RFP seeks ideas that improve emergency response at moments of crisis, provide new post-crisis alternatives and connect individuals with evidence-based treatments and services. Applications are being selected on a rolling basis through Nov. 5. 

Los Angeles Expands Its Cybersecurity Lab

Last year, Los Angeles launched the nation’s first city-backed cybersecurity lab primarily to help local businesses address online threats, and now that lab is expanding.

The city is building the expansion with a boost from a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, according to Smart Cities Dive. The additional support is expected to help the Los Angeles Cyber Lab develop better threat intelligence that will aid its public and private partners. Those partners will be able to submit threats, which will then be analyzed and distributed among other participants.

Part of the announcement was also that the grant will help the lab to support growth in the cybersecurity industry via investing in an innovation incubator to be opened to students, researchers and other stakeholders in the space. This facet is to be expanded with trainings and conferences too.

The role that municipal governments play in helping their communities is a changing one, with some — Los Angeles being at the forefront — taking a more active role. Municipal governments warding off cyberattacks within their own jurisdictions, however, is also of increasing concern as headlines this year have detailed high-profile cyberattacks on local government in Atlanta, the Port of San Diego and others.

Atlanta Launches New Public Request Platform, Fix-It ATL

During a live-streamed press conference this morning, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms launched Fix-It ATL, a new campaign aimed at encouraging residents of her city to report potholes, public spaces in need of beautification and other infrastructure challenges the city needs to address.

The announcement of this Fix-It ATL campaign coincided with the launch of a new ATL 311 phone app, which is the platform that Atlanta residents can use to report these problems that the city is so keen on fixing. In addition, another goal of the ATL 311 phone app is to serve as a quicker and more efficient line of communication between members of the public and the folks who work in city hall, one that will improve responsiveness to wider-ranging constituent concerns.

Fix-It ATL, officials noted, aspires to provide better municipal services with an eye toward equity that will see it helping all neighborhoods throughout the city.

Code for America Brigade Network Responds to Hurricane Michael

For the second time in as many months, Code for America’s nationwide network of civic tech groups is helping to facilitate more efficient emergency response efforts in the face of a large and dangerous hurricane.

Nearly a month after the brigade network mobilized to build online response hubs for Hurricane Florence in North Carolina, it again kicked into action to help as Hurricane Michael pounded Florida. In a medium post this week, organizers noted that this work is hardly a brand-new effort, being built off of tech that brigades in Texas and Florida created to respond to hurricanes Harvey and Irma last year. 

Currently, michaelresponse.org is up and running, and it features maps and other info about shelters, as well as other resources designed to help those in the path of the storm, including a textbot that takes ZIP codes and returns shelters based on location. This website is a close approximation of florenceresponse.org, which provided the same tools for the last storm.

The medium post also notes that there has been an evolution within the civic tech efforts that have come together to address these emergencies, writing, “It has been really interesting to watch the hurricane response site grow from Harvey, to Irma, and now to Florence. With each new iteration, the codebase is growing and adding more features, such as mapping out points of distribution for supplies and food. The API also now allows users to download the data as a CSV, which is useful for sharing with partner organizations.”

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.