What’s New in Civic Tech: Knight Foundation Invests in Miami

Plus, New Orleans launches a device repair clinic; the National Digital Inclusion Alliance has a website supporting the Digital Equity Act; 2019 Innovation in American Government Award open for nominations; and more.

by / May 2, 2019
Miami, Fla. Shutterstock/dorinser

The Knight Foundation has announced more than $1 million for new projects aimed at strengthening the startup ecosystem in Miami.

The money will go to nine projects, each of which is aimed at strengthening the connections between the founders of local startups, investors and tech talent. Another goal for the funding is to broaden the group of investors and technologists who participate in South Florida’s innovation community. The programs receiving the grants are varied in nature, despite sharing largely the same goals.

The University of Miami, for example, will get $250,000, Knight wrote in its announcement, “To provide Miami’s startups with greater access to capital by supporting the launch of the Cane Angel Network, which will connect alumni, faculty, staff, parent and other university-affiliated investors with promising university-affiliated companies.”

Meanwhile, the American Jewish Committee, will get $92,000 for a project designed to help deepen relationships between Miami startup entrepreneurs and their Israeli peers, doing so by connecting a delegation of the former with the latter. As part of this project, entrepreneurs from Miami will ultimately travel to Israel in conjunction with the American Jewish Committee Project Interchange.

Other grant recipients include eMerge Americas, Venture for America, Miami Angels, and Las Olas VC. A full list of the recipients can be found here. Raul Moas, Knight’s Miami program director, also wrote a blog detailing more about the announcement and the projects, which interested parties can read here.

The support for this project fits into a broader ongoing effort by Knight to elevate Miami’s startup ecosystem. That work has seen the organization invest more than $30 million in the region during the past half a decade.

New Orleans Launches Community Device Repair Clinic

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell has announced a new project called Reconnect NOLA, which is essentially a community clinic wherein residents can have their technological devices repaired.

The event, which is slated to run from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. this Saturday at the city’s Joe W. Brown Center, will focus on helping residents make minor fixes with the goal of restoring their ability to connect to the Internet.

Reconnect NOLA is made possible by a collaboration between the city’s information technology department, its recreation development commission, and STEM NOLA, which is an educational initiative with a focus on fostering increased engagement in science, technology, engineering and math. Devices eligible to be fixed as part of the program include tablets, laptops and phones. Services to be provided are virus, spyware, and computer clean up; memory upgrades; basic data transfer or backup; restoration of operation systems; and setting up email.

Device repair clinics and events like this one are increasingly becoming the domain of local government. In fact, on that very same day Washington, D.C., is holding a similar event called All Hands on Tech, in which citizens can get access to these services too.

The thinking behind these events is that digital equity first and foremost requires the entire population of the city to have steady access to the Internet, which we now often need to do vital tasks such as participating in education and signing up for health care easily.

National Digital Inclusion Alliance Launches Website in Support of Digital Equity Act

The National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA), which is one of the nation’s foremost organizations aimed helping foster digital inclusion, has launched a new website in support of federal digital equity legislation.

The site can be found at digitalequityact.org, and it boasts a wide range of features, all of which are aimed at supporting the Digital Equity Act of 2019. That legislation, which was introduced last month in the U.S. Senate, seeks to create new investments by the federal government in projects promote digital equity at the state and local levels.

The NDIA’s new site aims to support if by linking to the bill’s full text and other info; linking to a basic fact sheet and social media kit related to the legislation; offering a form for organizations to endorse it with; and a look-it-up table that provides digital equity statistics for every Congressional district and each state, culled by the NDIA from the U.S. Census’ American Community Survey.

In announcing the launch of the new site, the NDIA notes that a version of the Digital Equity Act is slated to be introduced soon in the U.S. House of Representatives. In the Senate, the bill has already garnered some high-profile supporters. In fact, three of its 10 co-sponsors are currently running for the Democratic nomination for president. They are Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Kamala Harris.

2019 Innovations in American Government Award Now Taking Nominations

Nominations are now open for the 2019 Innovations in American Government Award, an accolade offered through the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School.

The award is a long-tenured one, with a history that dates back more than three decades. Considered one of the highest honors for the public sector in the nation, organizers note that it traditionally “has been given to programs that serve as examples of creative and effective government at its best.” Since being introduced in 1985, the program has garnered more than 27,000 total applications, in turn recognizing roughly 500 government initiatives with funding from the Ford Foundation.

This year’s award seeks nominees that have worked to create more economic opportunity for all. In order to qualify for the award, programs must be designed to achieve one of these five things: increase opportunities that foster upward mobility, give individuals tools to break down obstacles for wealth, develop a modern workforce, address inequalities, or show results related to bridging gaps in several areas of life.

Nominations will remain open until June 14. The form to submit one is available here.

Blog Series Explores Collaborative Tech Work in Philadelphia Around Homelessness

There are a number of obstacle that jurisdictions across the country face, including an ongoing housing crisis that has led to spikes in homelessness in many major American cities.

Tackling homelessness with tech is an ongoing project for many local governments, including Philadelphia, a city where the Office of Open Data & Digital Transformation is formally working with the Office of Homeless Services. Now, the city has also launched a new blog called By the people to detail the work being done. The blog details the work being done via participatory design methods to improve homeless prevention in Philadelphia, as well as diversion and intake services.

It’s detailed stuff, too, looking at goals, project management and all of the specifics that have made the work possible. This month marks the fourth post in the series, which links to the previous three for those who want to read them.

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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