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What’s New in Civic Tech: Bloomberg Initiative Sends 40 Mayors to Harvard

Plus, Verizon brings 5G to Houston customers; Code for America expands its Clear My Record program; and Code for Louisville Looks for civic tech mentors.

by / July 26, 2018

Forty mayors from across the country will soon be returning to Harvard courtesy of the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative. 

These mayors will be the second class to participate in the cohort, which centers on a “yearlong education and professional development program designed exclusively for mayors,” according to an email announcement sent by Bloomberg. The mayors have already made one visit to the university, spending three days learning from faculty and management experts from New York City.

The overall aim of the program is to better-equip local government leaders with the tools they need to run a city in 2018. The scope of this will see the participants receiving instruction in the classroom, online and also in the field. As in most — if not all — of the work that Bloomberg does with local government leaders, there is a heavy emphasis on innovation.

In terms of tech, there will be lessons for the mayors about how to best partner with the private sector. There will also be some instruction related to tech and innovation practices such as creating and learning from pilot projects, as well as experimenting with approaches to challenges and obstacles. 

Verizon brings 5G to Houston

Verizon has announced plans to launch its 5G technology in Houston after previously doing so in Los Angeles and Sacramento, Calif.

The launch, the company said in an online announcement, will take place during the second half of the year, and it is part of Verizon’s “four market 5G deployment plan,” which will see it bringing the new residential broadband technology to an as-of-yet-unannounced fourth city, too.

In its online announcement, the company noted that it has had a long-standing relationship with Houston, and that it expects the deployment to have the support of major state and local stakeholders, including Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

Turner even went so far as to provide a quote for the announcement, saying, “We expect 5G will be a game changer helping us usher in a new wave of progress and innovation. We’re delighted to be one of the first cities to bring 5G to our local communities and look forward to continuing our long-standing relationship with Verizon.”

5G, for the uninitiated, basically means the fifth generation of wireless connectivity tech, and it stands to bring faster speeds that will have the potential to enable developing platforms that require higher bandwidth, including things like virtual reality and real-time conferencing.

Late last year, Sacramento became one of the first cities in the country to establish 5G infrastructure. The Verizon announcement did not go into specific details about the logistical process that will bring the tech to Houston. 

Code for America Expands its Clear My Record Program

Code for America (CfA) has launched a $1.8 million expansion campaign for its Clear My Record project, which seeks to automatically clear the criminal records of any eligible low-level offenders.

This expansion campaign, dubbed Justice at Scale, aims to build on the related pilot program that was announced earlier this year by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon. To date, this effort has raised 20 percent of its total target funds.

In an announcement, CfA notes that “across the country, voters have approved several measures that allow for tens of millions of Americans to legally expunge their records. Hypothetically, this expungement would allow them to access jobs, housing and educational opportunities they otherwise might be unable to access.”

The challenge however is that because the process of having these offenses expunged is so logistically burdensome, only a small fraction of the people who are eligible have benefited from the effort.

CfA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit group that uses tech to make governmental services simpler and easer to access, and that is certainly the mission at the heart of its work on Clear My Record.

Code for Louisville Looks for Mentors

The civic tech group Code for Louisville, (Ky.,) is searching for mentors who can coach less-skilled parties who want to make a difference in that community.

The group put the all-call out on its Twitter this week, linking to an application page. The qualifications for working as a mentor are not excessively complicated, essentially requiring interested parties to be software developers, responsive and committed, and skilled in the area in which they wish to mentor someone. The commitment at the minimum boils down to being available for a weekly two-hour in-person meetup as well as being accessible over Slack.

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Zack Quaintance Assistant News Editor

Zack Quaintance is the assistant news 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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