OAKLAND, Calif. — Today Code for America announced its 13 winners for its inaugural Technology Awards in civic innovation.
The awards, sponsored by Google for Entrepreneurs, were delivered on stage at the 2015 Code for America Summit, Sept. 30 - Oct. 2, and were meant to honor civic technology initiatives while also providing a strong endorsement. CfA Founder and Executive Director Jennifer Pahlka said she envisioned the challenge to inspire governments, and secondarily to flag the tech for possible investment.
“This is our way of shining a spotlight on the practices that get us to 21st-century government…,” Pahlka said in an interview with Government Technology. “And if we’re going to do that, there are three major stakeholders that are going to need to come to the table.”
Those stakeholders, she said, are citizens, governments and private-sector companies.
As a catalyst for collaboration, Pahlka said the contest was a way for the nonprofit to recognize achievement. In the past, CfA leveraged a startup accelerator to promote civic development. The program, which ran from 2012 to 2014, yielded a number of successful ventures, such as business application platform OpenCounter, civic engagement service MindMixer, and document form specialist Seamlessdocs — also an awardee this year.
“But with the changes that we’ve seen in the market, it didn’t seem like the accelerator was the best way for us to point people at the companies and solutions that we thought had such a great impact,” Pahlka said.
Although the accelerator drove private-sector startups, CfA also sought to acknowledge governments and citizens for their contributions. This is reflected in 2015, with winners representing a slate of civic technologists in CfA’s local Brigades and Asheville, N.C.’S property information site SimpliCity. Additionally, private-sector startups and full fledged companies like GitHub are part of the mix (see full list below).
Contest rules only demanded two major requirements of the entries: The software had to be in use by at least one U.S. jurisdiction, and it had to be accessible — meaning open source or available for purchase.
For judges, CfA pulled in more than 20 industry thought leaders to weigh in. Among these were Aneesh Chopra, former U.S. CTO; Garren Givens, director of the Presidential Innovation Fellows at 18F; and Anthony Townsend, author of the book Smart Cities and senior research scientist at New York University's Rudin Center for Transportation.
Following the awards, Google plans to invite winners to the company's Mountain View campus where chief Googlers will offer mentorship on topics of government technology. In a release, John Lyman, head of partnerships at Google for Entrepreneurs, said the winning projects were reflective of Google for Entrepreneurs' mission to cultivate entrepreneurial progress.
"Google believes in the power of technology to drive change and build communities,” Lyman said. “These winners epitomize that spirit, and serve as a great example to others starting companies in this space.”
The winners are: