This Week in Civic Tech: Top States for Innovation, Will Smart City Startups Get $10M in Funding?

A look back at highlights and happenings in the world of civic tech.

by / January 14, 2016
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, whose state took top honors in Bloomberg's State Innovation Index. Flickr/WBUR Boston's NPR News Station/Dominick Reuter

This Week in Civic Tech presents a lineup of notable events in the space that connects citizens to government services. Topics cover latest startups, hackathons, open data initiatives and other influencers. Check back each week for updates.

Top Innovative States

Bloomberg presented its latest State Innovation Index, which ranks states on their approaches to invention and ingenuity. Massachusetts tops the list, with California, Washington, New Jersey and Connecticut rounding out the five most innovative states in the nation.

Bloomberg ranked the states using a categorical point system that included a series of measurements in research and development, productivity and high-tech services. It weighed tallied patents, and analyzed such drivers as education and employment stats in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Crunching the figures, the metrics generated scores of zero to 100 for each of the 50 states. The highs hit 93 and the low struck at 9 (hang in there Mississippi). While the lineup's character was well stratified, the top two states were separated only by hundreths: Massachusetts won with a score of 93.33 compared to California’s 93.30. Bloomberg said this was likely due to the ranking system that measured the number of companies in a region instead of cumulative market capital. If market capital held sway, the conjectures were that California would’ve taken the win, thanks to Apple.

The rankings are as follows:

1. Massachusetts, 93.33 26. Georgia, 48.38
2. California, 93.30 27. Hawaii, 45.67
3. Washington, 90.40 28. Wisconsin, 43.30
4. New Jersey, 80.42 29. Ohio, 42.90
5. Connecticut, 77.18 30. Kansas, 42.53
6. Oregon, 77.08 31. Wyoming, 41.20
7. Maryland, 76.82 32. Iowa, 39.57
8. Colorado, 75.12 33. Missouri, 39.25
9. Delaware, 72.72 34. Indiana, 38.27
10. Minnesota, 71.85 35. Florida, 37.82
11. Virginia, 71.77 36. South Carolina, 33.00
12. New Hampshire, 68.60 37. Alabama, 32.57
13. New Mexico, 67.42 38. Nevada, 31.92
14. Rhode Island, 61.95 39. Nebraska, 31.12
15. Texas, 61.25 40. North Dakota, 30.80
16. North Carolina, 60.80 41. Tennessee, 29.85
17. New York, 60.70 42. Montana, 27.00
18. Michigan, 59.75 43. Maine, 24.40
19. Arizona, 59.05 44. Oklahoma, 24.12
20. Utah, 59.00 45. Kentucky, 20.20
21. Illinois, 56.30 46. Louisiana, 19.70
22. Pennsylvania, 51.83 47. Arkansas, 13.33
23. Idaho, 49.82 48. South Dakota, 13.20
24. Alaska, 49.40 49. West Virginia, 12.00
25. Vermont, 49.20 50. Mississippi, 9.00

Possible $10 million for Smart City Startups

Venture fund Urban.us is banking on the new surge of smart city and civic tech startups: A TechCrunch article reported that Urban.us is raising $10 million to establish promising ventures.

A portion of this funding is said to be committed to three startups: Rachio, a smart irrigation service; Flair, a company that provides intelligent heating and cooling systems; and FutureMotion, the creator of an electric one-wheeled skateboard. Urban.us co-founders Shaun Abrahamson and Stonly Baptiste are making plans to elevate entrepreneurs that have already proven themselves in their markets, but may need a boost to expand.

The first fund raised by Ubran.us stood at $1.3 million and populated the fund’s portfolio with 20 startups that included mobility and analytics services, utilities, and local government. Baptiste told TechCrunch that impacts to global warming will hold a prominent position in the decision-making, especially since cities are likely to double their populations by 2050 — and currently produce 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

New York Pushes State Transparency in 2016

In a release accompanying his State of the State address, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo laid out policy goals to heighten the state’s transparency regulations. Like Congress, which recently took measures to reform the Freedom of Information Act, Cuomo plans to rework New York’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) so it holds departments and officials more accountable to citizen requests. His proposal seeks comprehensive alterations to the law that allows citizens access to state records, and will apply to all agencies in the state.

In this vein, the governor has submitted legislation to conduct a study that offers recommendations for public tracking of state contracts and budgeting. A third initiative for greater openness targets political campaign finance and disclosure requirements. Cuomo’s intentions aim to close the limited liability companies (LLC) loophole attached to political campaign donation limits. Political candidates have leveraged this opening to generate hefty sums of capital. Further details of this policy change require candidates to disclose campaign contributions every 60 days — as opposed to current practice that is twice annually.

Jason Shueh former staff writer

Jason Shueh is a former staff writer for Government Technology magazine.