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What’s New in Civic Tech: CDC Hiring Chief Data Officer

Plus, executive government leaders are taking to social media to address constituent questions; the Census is online as of now; Seattle’s firefighters are dancing for social distancing awareness; and more.

by / April 2, 2020
Shutterstock/Eugene Lu

As the novel coronavirus crisis wears on, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is looking to hire a chief data officer.

The position appears to be a new one for the federal agency that is tasked with combating outbreaks such as the COVID-19 spread taking place right now. This also marks continued modernization for a government agency that has voiced the desire to do so for more than a year. The posting went up Tuesday and will remain live until April 28.

According to the job posting, the position will be based in Atlanta, and it will be a full-time, permanent executive-level position, reporting to the CDC’s chief information officer. Responsibilities for the role include leading the agency’s public health data modernization initiatives, positioning the agency well within the wider data health science community, establishing a data governance structure, and advising the CIO as well as other leaders on tech trends within the public health sector.

Data has been at the center of some of the discussions as to whether the federal government could have responded better and faster than it did to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, with health experts stressing that testing data specifically is key to learning all they need to stop the spread of the virus. 

More information about how to apply for the role can be found here.

Governors and Mayors Take to Social Media to Address Constituents

Governors and mayors this week took to their social media feeds to address constituent questions about the continued spread of the novel coronavirus. 

Indeed, a wide range of executive government leaders held Twitter question-and-answer sections this week, ranging from Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and so on. The sessions were simple enough in nature, with the government leaders asking their constituents to bring all their coronavirus inquiries.

Doing so was a means first of interacting with anxious residents who are self-isolating in their homes and concerned about the sizable implications this period is all but guaranteed to have on the world. Second, misinformation around the coronavirus has been a problem within the United States since the onset of the global pandemic back in January.

To participate in the question-and-answer sessions, all interested parties had to do was log on to Twitter, find the announcement post, and leave their inquiries as replies. 

Other leaders in this time of crisis are regularly taking to social media to disseminate information through video briefings, with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo specifically doing so on a frequent basis, accruing thousands of live viewers as he discusses the latest news from the government there. 

CovidActNow.org Visualizes Projection Data

A new website — CovidActNow.org — is visualizing the latest projection data from the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

The site, which is a volunteer tech project, has accumulated more than 10 million visitors in the past week. Essentially, it has evolved into a platform that offers visitors open access to statewide projections for COVID-19 infection rates, hospitalizations and hospital overloads. According to a recent Bloomberg Cities Medium post, the development team for the new site has also started to take requests for customized data to suit localized needs. 

This civic tech project also continues to grow in scope, with its list of volunteers now numbering more than 100. Former Google Cloud executive Max Henderson initiated the site, noting that he did so in order to create reliable publicly available data that could help policymakers make decisions around the ongoing crisis. 

The site began life as a newsletter with 1,000 subscribers before growing into the wider open platform that it occupies now. The way the projects on the site work is that users click on a state in order to view the projected hospitalizations as well as the date of projected hospital overload, which is visualized for limited action and various levels of sheltering compliance. The different layers of data like that creates a contrast that shows why the measures being taken to stem the tide of the pandemic are so important.  

Developers Launch COVID-19 State Policy Database

A new database is tracking the state policy actions taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The database includes info such as when a state of emergency was declared, when schools were closed, when non-essential businesses were closed and more. There is also other data tied to the spread of illness such as population density, square miles, days of paid sick leave and more. The sources for the data can be found here via Dropbox.  

The project was built primarily by faculty at Boston University.

The 2020 U.S. Census Is Online Now

The 2020 U.S. Census, which will influence much of the data that civic technologists and others rely on for the next decade, is online now, and it can and should be answered in a matter of minutes by everyone.

The Census data supplies other derivative data for technologists to work with. In addition, the Census also helps determine the allocation of billions of dollars of federal funding each year, as well as political representation at the federal level. The Census ranks as the largest peacetime mobilization of the U.S. government, and planning for the Census has been underway for years.

The outbreak of the coronavirus in the weeks before the Census began in earnest is a complication. This marks the first-ever highly digital Census, which is an advantage because responding can now be done online. 

In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, the Census Bureau has temporarily suspended field operations. 

Seattle Firefighters Dance for Social Distancing on TikTok

Seattle firefighters took to TikTok recently to help spread awareness about safe behaviors during the pandemic, and they did so by dancing, which is apparently the main reason that TikTok exists. 

Anyway, this video — which you can find here — is an absolute delight, as well as rich with important subject matter about how to stay safe and healthy. Enjoy!

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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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