What’s New in Civic Tech: GovEx Academy Leader Leaving

Plus, CDC provides $301 million of funding to opioid-related data work; the Urban Institute has published a new data catalog; California civic tech groups are prepping for a 23-hour hackathon; and more.

by / September 12, 2019

Eric Reese, the director of the GovEx Academy, will leave his position on Oct. 1. 

Reese, who shared the news this week, will be moving to Paris. Reese has been with what is now the GovEx Academy and the Centers for Civic Impact essentially from its start, which happened back in April of 2015. It began its life as part of What Works Cities, created initially to fill gaps that leaders of that program identified when it came to training on tools like data management, performance and analytics.

Over the years, the GovEx Academy and Centers for Civic Impact have grown more comprehensive and robust. Most recently, the group launched a training center aimed at helping public servants keep up with emerging trends in gov tech, including but not limited to data management, analytics, and community engagement. 

In fact, the first courses to be classified within that new initiative started this June, with Reese noting at the time that plans call for expanding the offerings as the center continues to progress, potentially even offering credentials to graduates and participants. 

The organization, for the unfamiliar, is housed at Johns Hopkins University

Centers for Disease Control Provides $301 Million Funding to Opioid-Related Data Work

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced $301 million in new funding as part of the Overdose Data to Action agreement, which is a national resource aimed at helping state, county and city governments get better data about overdoses.

The CDC made the announcement via a release on its website, noting that, “Funded programs will yield information crucial to a better understanding of why, and among whom, overdoses and deaths are taking place.” This better understanding, of course, will enable public servants fighting the epidemic to get a clearer picture of what the challenges really are, thereby bolstering prevention and response efforts across the country. 

The funds, the release also notes, will go to 47 states, two territories, 16 counties and cities, as well as to Washington, D.C. Over the course of three years, recipients will have help gathering and reporting varied data related to substances, circumstances and locations of overdoses. Other data will have to do with the populations most affected, and it includes demographic data such as age, race and gender. 

Also, the recipients of these new funds will be able to strengthen prescription monitoring, collaboration and links to care. This is all in addition to an improved ability to support health-care providers and systems. 

More information about the Overdose Data to Action agreement is online.

St. Petersburg, Fla., Celebrates ‘One Year of Transparency’

Earlier this year, St. Petersburg, Fla., launched a new open data portal to accompany its StPeteStat program that began in 2018.

The goal of all of this was to use data to demonstrate as well as to quantify different challenges and issues that the city faced. The local government and those who worked within it were, of course, aware of the challenges. The idea behind the data initiatives was to create empirical measurements and proofs for them.

Now, the city is celebrating the early success it has had in fostering this transparency. 

“Everyone ‘knew’ what the issues were, but the data spoke volumes to what was otherwise just institutional knowledge,” Debbie Fedak, StPeteStat coordinator, said in a statement. “Our goal has been to correct the imbalance of data use by adopting tools that are easy for us to navigate internally and also easy for the public to use to hold the city accountable.”

The city reports that with the use of Tyler Technologies’ Socrata-powered open data platform, 12 of its departments have seen related results. This includes the way that data has helped reduce fire inspections managed by construction services and permitting, taking the average amount of time for that from 103 days down to four. Other beneficiaries from the work include the city’s water resources department, as well — and perhaps most importantly — residents, who can now access more detailed info on a wide range of city services, including police calls, fire calls, code case reports and more, all via an interactive map.

Check Out the New Urban Institute Data Catalog

The Urban Institute has made public an extensive new data catalog that includes all of the open data collected by its researchers and data scientists.

For the unfamiliar, the Urban Institute is a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that conducts economic and social policy research. Some of the newly published data from its catalog includes national surveys of American families dating back years, an earned income tax credit interactive database and much more.

Interested civic technologists, activists, public servants and other members of the public can find it all online here.

California Civic Tech Groups Prep for 23-Hour Hackathon

Finally, with the National Day of Civic Hacking fast approaching, more details are being announced about the various regional civic tech events across the country. 

One of those is an event in Fresno, Calif., which is being jointly organized by the local Code for America brigade, Code for Fresno, 59 Days of Code and Google Developer Group Fresno. The event is called Valley DevFest’s 23-Hour Hackathon

The event, which features a light breakfast and lunch by La Jacka, will be similar to many hackathons, complete with talks, workshops, a pair of prompts and two $500 prizes. The workshops will give attendees a chance to ask experienced developers for advice on their work. 

Meanwhile, the two prompts will be split between a design challenge or a technical challenge. The first, according to the event’s website, will ask participants to “create a user-friendly 'Know Your Rights' site, page, or graphic about criminal record relief. This can be a website or even a digital image for social media,” while the second will require them to, “create a services usability review site, which evaluates the services available to people seeking criminal record relief (i.e., expungement, sealing, dismissal, reduction, etc.).”

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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