What’s New in Civic Tech: Ohio Opioid Technology Challenge Announces Winners

Plus, Washington, D.C., looks for volunteers to join website testing team, a new challenge offers $750,000 for projects that use AI in the service of public good, and this week’s gov tech jobs.

by / September 13, 2018
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The Ohio Opioid Technology Challenge, which seeks to combat what has fast become a national drug-use epidemic afflicting many states, announced that it has given out 12 prizes to projects that aim to find tech-based solutions to this persistent problem.

The challenge began earlier this year at the request of Gov. John Kasich, inviting participants from the business and innovation communities within the state to create tech solutions that fit into one of four categories: diagnose, prevent, connect or protect. The challenge, according to a press release from the state, has now awarded $200,000 each to 12 projects in service of expanding their ideas further.

More than 50 proposals were submitted as part of the challenge, which is currently wrapping up the second of three phases. The first phase involved collecting ideas from a wide range of stakeholders, including researchers, caregivers, service providers and others. The second involved the creation of tech solutions. The state’s press release notes that some proposals came from outside Ohio, but that they all involved partnering with in-state entities.

The final phase will begin soon and run through July 2019. During this third phase, participants will use the funding from the state to refine their ideas into scalable products.

A full list of the prize winners is available online.

Washington, D.C., Looks to Volunteers to Join Testing Team

Washington, D.C., has launched a new Usability Lab, and the city’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer is now looking for volunteers — both businesses and individuals — to test government sites and applications that stem from them.

“At the DC Office of the Chief Technology Officer we are constantly trying to find ways to improve our websites and applications,” developers wrote in an online call for volunteers. “We want to know if you're finding what you’re looking for. As Web designers and content creators, it is easy to think we know what users want. Now we want to put those ideas to the test. And you can help.”

This, of course, is the idea behind human-centered design, a discipline spreading throughout local and state government as agencies work to provide friendlier services that more closely resemble those that constituents have become accustomed to via the private sector. Volunteers, the city notes, are welcome to participate from their own homes or offices, completing tests that take no longer than 20 to 30 minutes.

Interested parties can go online to learn more about the Usability Lab or to sign up to become a usability tester.

Challenge to Award Projects Using AI in Service of Public Good

A new challenge is offering up to $750,000 to support projects that seek to use artificial intelligence in service of the public good.

This challenge is part of the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Initiative, which was first launched in 2017 as a combination of research efforts and philanthropy that seeks to make sure AI and machine learning develops in a way that’s conducive to “social values of fairness, human autonomy, and justice,” according to the initiative’s website. This particular challenge cites four specific problems it would like to see participants address — governing the platforms, stopping bad actors, empowering journalism, and reimagining AI and news — which the organizers describe as potentially problematic if not handled properly as this technology continues to accelerate.

Organizers will be hosting live office hours online this fall, with one set on Friday, Sept. 21, and another on Thursday, Oct. 11. This initiative is supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Omidyar Network, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The MIT Media Lab and the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University are leading the initiative as anchor institutes.

The entry phase for participants will take place from Sept. 12 through Oct. 12, and the prize money will be awarded to winning projects in February 2019.

More information about the challenge is available online.

This Week’s Gov Tech Jobs

This week, there are a trio of new openings in the gov tech and gov tech-adjacent spaces.

Detroit is hiring an executive director for the city’s innovation team. More information is available here.

Also in Detroit, the University of Michigan is looking for a city of Detroit digital inclusion policy fellow. More information is available here.

Finally, the Texas Department of Information Resources, which handles much of the tech and innovation work for the state government there, has an opening for a service fulfillment manager in its customer service operations division. More information is available here.

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.