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What’s New in Civic Tech: Beeck Center Names New Leader

Plus, Code for America condemns the attack on the U.S. Capitol; the U.S. State Department adds its first permanent chief data officer position; and Congress directs FCC to create emergency broadband funds.

by / January 7, 2020
The Key Bridge and Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Shutterstock/Orhan Cam

The Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation at Georgetown University — one of the foremost academic entities in the civic and gov tech field — has named Cori Zarek as its next executive director.

Zarek is a lawyer as well as a public interest technologist who also has deep experience in government, civil society and the broader technology sector. Her resume includes a stint as the deputy chief technology officer of the United States federal government. In addition, Zarek both designed and led the Mozilla Foundation’s tech policy fellowship program and has worked with major civic tech players too, including Code for America.

She is also familiar with the Beeck Center coming into the role, having been with the center since 2019, joining in order to expand action-oriented research as well as project work that uses tech and data for impact. In addition, Zarek has designed curriculum and mentored students as an adjunct professor, doing so since 2007 at various universities, one of which was Georgetown.

She takes over for outgoing Beeck Center Executive Director Sonal Shah. 

“As tools like data, design, and technology continue to drive the way institutions operate, we have more opportunities to reimagine how those institutions solve problems and deliver better for society,” Zarek said in a statement. “The Beeck Center attracts fellows who want to use their data and tech skills to design new approaches that put people first and we train and teach students who are becoming the next leaders in the public interest tech community. This work is more important than ever and it is an honor to keep building on the incredible work Sonal has led.”

Code for America Condemns Attack on U.S. Capitol

The nation’s pre-eminent civic tech organization, Code for America, has issued a statement to condemn the actions of pro-Trump rioters who broke into the U.S. Capitol and delayed the certification of the 2020 election results.

Code for America is a non-partisan and nonprofit organization that works with government to help them find tech-based ways to improve services. The group issuing the statement as the news unfolded is perhaps unprecedented in its history.

U.S. State Department Appoints Chief Data Officer

The U.S. State Department this week appointed Matthew Graviss as the agency’s first permanent chief data officer, officials announced in a press release.

In that role, Graviss will be charged with leading the Office of Management Strategy and Solution’s Center for Analytics, which encompasses the department’s enterprise data capability. The release announcing Graviss' appointment also notes that he will drive an increased push to leverage data as a strategic asset, which has been tabbed as a priority across the federal government. 

In this specific role, the work Graviss does will involve using data analytics in the service of driving insights that inform foreign policy and management decisions. He assumed the position last month, having previously served in the same role for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is housed within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. 

Congress Directs FCC to Create an Emergency Broadband Benefit

The U.S. Congress this week directed the Federal Communications Commission to create an emergency broadband benefit, which would essentially be a monthly broadband discount for low-income households.

On Monday, the FCC shared a public notice requesting comment on how to best implement this program, which Congress expects to be running within the next two months. As part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, Congress has allocated $3.2 billion to this Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, hoping especially to help connect households with school-aged children.

As part of this, broadband providers will be reimbursed up to $50 for each low-income household they serve, with that number increasing to $100 if they also provide said households with Internet-ready devices. 

More information about what sort of comments the FCC is looking for can be found on the agency’s website.


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Zack Quaintance Associate Editor

Zack Quaintance is the associate editor for Government Technology. His background includes writing for daily newspapers across the country and developing content for a software company in Austin, Texas. He is now based in Washington, D.C. He can be reached via email.

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