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What’s New in Civic Tech: IBM Picks Call for Code Winner

Plus, Michigan launches an initiative to help residents transition to clean energy; Seattle opens applications for its long-standing technology matching fund grants program; and L.A. maps Latinx heritage sites.

by / October 17, 2019

IBM has announced the winners for its Call for Code 2019 Global Prize, a civic tech accolade that includes a $200,000 grand prize.

The winner of this prize is Prometeo, which is an AI-based platform that can be used to monitor and take action on firefighter health and safety both in the moment and over a longer period of time. Prometeo was announced as the winner this week at an event in New York City. The Call for Code contest was also judged by a prestigious panel that included President Bill Clinton, Slack founder/CEO Stewart Butterfield, and others.

What happens now is that Prometeo will be further developed and ultimately deployed under IBM’s Code and Response initiative, which is a $25 million program by the company that is aimed at creating and deploying open-sourced tech solutions to major global challenges. One interesting thing about the winning company is that it’s actually made up of stakeholders in the project, with a membership that includes developers, a firefighter and a nurse.

In addition to support from IBM, this is all made possible with more help from The Linux Foundation and other partners. The last major notable component to all of this is that IBM will help Prometeo be deployed in communities that have the greatest needs via the company’s IBM Corporate Service Corps. 

Competitions like this are becoming increasingly common in the civic tech world, as public-private partnerships seek to give startups a boost into working with government, doing so with a mix of funding and advice about tricky governmental processes such as procurement. This competition is perhaps more notable than most given the size of the prize and the list of distinguished judges. 

More information about Call for Code is available here.

Michigan Launches Website, Campaign to Guide Transition to Clean Energy

Michigan has launched a new campaign complete with an online component to help guide residents through the ongoing societal move toward clean energies.

The overall effort is called the MI Power Grid, and it is essentially a centralized repository for infomation and outreach related to the energy industry transitioning to clean energy. The MI Power Grid is split into three areas of emphasis: customer engagement, integrating emerging tech and optimizing grid performance and investments.

In a press release, Michigan officials described MI Power Grid as an effort to “ensure Michigan residents and businesses are equipped with tools and information to receive the benefits of clean energy.”

The type of benefits referred to are access to clean energy programs and rates, advancement in how energy infrastructure is planned and updates on regulations to improve service. 

From a civic tech standpoint, this is significant because it’s an effort by the state to use technology to make a complex area of governance more accessible to businesses and citizens. It’s a far cry, too, from the days that governmental Web presence was limited to monolithic sites with walls of text.

Residents can even sign up via the MI Power Grid website to receive email updates to stay informed about matters related to this. 

Seattle’s Technology Matching Fund Opens Applications for 2020 Grants

Seattle opened grant applications for its long-standing Technology Matching Fund program, which is among the oldest governmental digital inclusion programs in the country.

The grant cycle was opened earlier this month in order to coincide with Digital Inclusion Week, and it involves a program within which matching funds of up to $25,000 are doled out to community-led, Seattle-based projects aimed at increasing digital literacy, access to high-speed Internet and tech support within underserved communities.

The Technology Matching Fund basically requires funded nonprofit groups to match half of the grants they’re awarded with volunteer time, donated materials, donated services or cash. This is, to put it mildly, a significant program. In fact, in 2019, Seattle invested $320,000 in 11 projects that officials estimate reached more than 3,4000 residents, including 1,700 immigrants and refugees. Of that group, 250 were also youth while 570 were seniors and 900 were people with disabilities. 

This year, the city estimates that it will match roughly $302,915 in community resources in connection with the Technology Matching Fund. Of significant note this year is that in order to fund more projects, the maximum award amount has been reduced to $25,000, down from the $50,000 cap that was in place during recent years.

The Technology Matching Fund application and guidelines can be found here, and the application deadline is Jan. 13. In addition, between now and that deadline, Seattle will be hosting advisory workshops related to applying, hosted by local libraries and community centers.

Los Angeles Maps Sites Showcasing Latinx Heritage

Los Angeles launched a new online resource map highlighting 23 sites in the city that showcase the influence of Latinx populations. 

The map, which was announced by the L.A. Controller's office, is titled Latinx Heritage Across Los Angeles, and officials say it “gives a unique look at some important places, spaces, monuments and institutions that are publicly owned or have been officially recognized by the city as integral to the development of L.A.’s Latinx communities.”

The map allows users to explore monuments, as well as information about current numbers of things like Latinx city works, commissioners, elected officials and more. Infographics in English and Spanish accompany the map. The map can be found here.

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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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