What’s New in Civic Tech: D.C. Launches Innovation Contest

Plus, Arlington, Texas, has a new City at Work transparency dashboard with user experiences as a core goal and a new website called Citygrader.com wants to be Yelp for local government and other public agencies.

by / July 5, 2019

Washington, D.C., has invited developers and entrepreneurs to participate in a public innovation challenge for the second time this year.

This latest contest — dubbed DCx — will ask participants to tackle this question: How will the future of public safety and health technology benefit from 5G networks, which promise increased Internet speeds to users? This is somewhat of a followup to a contest the city held earlier this year, the GigabitDCx challenge. That event attracted 116 participants and 21 eventual submissions. 

The new DCx competition will be divided into two phases. After the first phase, the semi-finalists will split a $14,500 prize stipend, which they will use to further their concepts and build prototypes. The second phase will see them vying for $20,000 more in finalist prize money. 

Participants will submit concepts online through a platform set up by the Washington, D.C., Office of the Chief Technology Officer. Through this platform, they can also engage with public agencies and communicate with fellow competitors (if they so choose, of course).

The entire competition is made possible through public-private collaboration, with a long list of participating groups that include East of the River Services, the DC Police Department, DC Fire and EMS, DC Health, Verizon’s 5G Lab, US Ignite and Mapbox. Competitors will also have access to engineer mentors and a host of subject-matter experts. The idea is that these experts in the space will be able to advise them and answer their questions as they proceed through the process. 

Interested parties can follow the challenge at this website

Arlington, Texas, Launches the Your City at Work Transparency Dashboard

Arlington, Texas, has launched a new website called Your City at Work, which aims to serve as a new performance measurement dashboard for the city online. 

Developers are billing it as “an accessible, dynamic tool that allows residents to see their tax dollars at work.” This is all part of an overhauled city website that has a strong focus on serving residents, businesses and visitors to the city. This enhanced and intuitive dashboard marks a significant improvement in terms of user friendliness, and it also features readily available data on city goals related to filling potholes, collecting recyclables, answering 911 calls and more.

In the past, Arlington kept a quarterly spreadsheet of its performance measurements. The new dashboard on the website, however, was built with user experience in mind by the software company Esri, which has built many similar dashboards for cities across the country. 

"Since the dashboard feature already exists in our product offering, cities like Arlington have the ability to create a performance measurement dashboard without using staff hours to build one from scratch or buying a service specifically to get access to it as a feature," said Richard Leadbeater, Esri's state government industry manager, in a press release. "This saves cities time and money, and that's important to taxpayers."

These sorts of accountability platforms have spread rapidly among city governments in recent years. It’s all part of a larger trend wherein local government is adapting a private-sector approach to its digital offerings, treating residents more like customers by building products with their experience in mind. 

Citygrader.com Wants to be Yelp for Local Government

A new website wants you to review your local government, much as you’d review a new restaurant or a hotel stay by using Yelp or TripAdvisor.

That new website is called Citygrader.com, and it’s exactly what it sounds like: a site that the public can use to grade their city — specifically their local governments and public employees — based on the public service experience that they provide. This ties into the idea in the item above that there is a nationwide trend that’s seeing local governments and the people they serve become more focused on customer experiences in government. 

Citygrader has an open access feature, too, which citizens can use to email mayors and commissioners about concerns or requests. 

Citygrader is working currently to roll out nationwide, with plans calling for adding New York City and San Francisco by the end of the year. Currently, it is most widely available for cities and agencies in Florida.

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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