What’s New in Civic Tech: Upstate New York Summit Focuses on Region’s Local Government Data Wins

Plus, DATA Act marks first full year of collecting federal financial info, Pennsylvania’s Office of Administration open data team wins award for excellence and Detroit’s Department of Transportation teams with Lyft for pilot program.

by / May 10, 2018
Buffalo, NY. Shutterstock

The Upstate Data Summit is bringing together city leaders from that region of New York for an event in which they will share data and tech success stories.

The event is scheduled for June 6 in Syracuse, N.Y., to be held on the campus of Syracuse University. Interested parties can register here. One of the main objectives of this event is to spread awareness about the ways that local governments in upstate New York are using data — specifically open data and data-driven decision-making — with an eye toward showing other, less-experienced governments how they can begin to do the work in their city halls.

The event will, of course, include speakers from several local governments in the region, including open data directors, chief data officers, mayors and chief performance officers from places such as Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse and Schenectady, N.Y.

Tech and innovation collaboration among governments in upstate New York has become increasingly prevalent. Several local governments there are coordinating their tech efforts in order to combat problems related to blighted buildings.

DATA Act Marks First Full Year of Collecting Federal Financial Info

Thanks to the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014, the U.S. Treasury Department has now collected one full year of federal financial agency data, with data advocacy groups now noting that the information is a valuable tool for identifying trends within certain agencies or across government.

To disseminate this data, the Treasury Department officially launched a redesign of USAspending.gov last month. With this new government-wide spending data portal, users have access to new tools that help them better sort the info, ultimately fostering improved understanding of federal spending. Advocacy groups such as the Data Coalition are now calling upon lawmakers to start using the data for appropriations, oversight and insights into their districts and states.

Open data about government spending has already served to help keep government accountable, specifically as it relates to the September resignation of former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, according to a detailed account from Politico, the news outlet that broke the story that ultimately led to Price’s departure.

Pennsylvania Office of Administration Open Data Team Wins Excellence Award

The open data team in Pennsylvania’s Office of Administration has won the Governor’s Award for Excellence in that state for improving public transparency, citizen engagement and government operations, all by using state open data.

The award goes to the team of Julie Snyder, John Long and Jere Matthews, who led the implementation of Pennsylvania’s open data program, work that included creating an open data portal and organizing the first state-hosted hackathon. The award was given to them by Gov. Tom Wolf, who himself established the open data program via an executive order in 2016. In the service of their work, the three worked closely with internal state agencies to determine the data that would go on the portal. Ultimately, more than 100 data sets were added, covering a wide range of topics that include transportation, public safety, education, economic development and other topics.

The Governor’s Award for Excellence is designed to recognize state employees for exemplary job performance.

Detroit Department of Transportation Teams with Lyft for Pilot Program

Detroit’s Department of Transportation has launched a new pilot program teaming with the ride-share company Lyft, which will be helping to get riders to and from work.

This program, a first of its kind for Detroit, launched on Tuesday, May 8, being offered from 12 to 5 a.m. along the 53 Woodward bus route. A main goal of this initiative is to help fill in gaps related to Detroit’s bus system for city residents who work jobs overnight. In order to participate in the program, passengers simply text “W2W” to 313-456-9328, and they in turn receive a $7 credit to use on Lyft. Residents without smartphone access can sign up via Lyft Concierge.

In order to book a trip, passengers must have a debit card, a credit card, or another sort of prepaid card that has a balance of more than $25, according to a city website for the program. This pilot will provide a total of 2,000 rides to residents. The program is being funded through a grant from the New Economy Initiative.

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.