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What’s New in Civic Tech: More than 50 Services Now Available on

Plus, a new digital inclusion report ranks worst-connected cities in the U.S.; Boston deploys an interactive map for finding public restrooms; and San Antonio moves forward with innovation zones.

by / June 7, 2018

One year after Indianapolis and Marion County, Ind., first launched as a digital resource for residents and businesses in both jurisdictions, the site now offers more than 50 services.

Powered by Shift Indy — a two-year initiative to reimagine government service — the site has recently added three new public safety features, including requesting a ride-along with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, requesting a community appearance from that department and filing a police complaint. This adds on to an extensive list of existing services such as contacting veteran services, applying for a disabled person’s property tax deduction, holiday alcohol safety tips, finding school districts, sending traffic complaints and other functionalities.

In addition, the new batch of features released this month also includes 17 new entry points to Indianapolis’ constituent engagement application, RequestIndy, within which residents can report issues and request city services related to potholes, high weeds and grass, stray animals and zoning issues.

In a press release, officials involved with the project also noted that it will continue to add and launch new services and enhancements on a quarterly basis.

The site joins a number of other ongoing efforts in local government agencies across the country to create Web platforms that cater to the needs of users rather than institutions. Featuring clean design and a list of popular links and services on its home page, looks friendly and accessible, a far cry from a previous generation of government websites that often featured walls of nigh-impenetrable text.

New Digital Inclusion Report Ranks Worst-Connected Cities in the U.S.

The National Digital Inclusion Alliance has ranked all 186 cities in the United States with more than 50,000 households based on frequency of fixed broadband Internet subscriptions.

The rankings, which the group posted on its website this week, use data from the 2016 American Community Survey (ACS), which was released in September by the U.S. Census Bureau. The rankings are aimed at determining the worst-connected cities, as of 2016, by tabulating the total percentage of each city’s households that lack fixed broadband Internet subscriptions. The group notes that the rankings are “not an indication of the availability of home broadband service, but rather of the extent to which households are actually connected to it.”

With that information as a qualifier, the report determines that Brownsville, Texas, is the worst-connected city in the country, given that 67.03 percent of its households in 2016 lacked fixed broadband Internet. Also in the top five were Detroit; Hialeah, Fla.; Shreveport, La.; and Memphis, Tenn. Other notable big cities in the top 10 were Cleveland and Miami.

Conversely, the most connected cities in the country as determined by the report were Bellevue, Wash., with only 9.12 percent of households lacking fixed broadband, and Naperville, Ill., where that number was 10.26 percent.

Boston Deploys Interactive Map for Finding Public Bathrooms

Boston now has an interactive map that can be used to find the nearest public bathroom.

The Public Restrooms Map was launched Monday by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and the city’s Commission on Affairs of the Elderly as part of the Age-Friendly Boston initiative, according to local news reports. Development of the map was handled by the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics and the Department of Innovation and Technology, which teamed with several other departments to build it.

While the genesis of the project was born from helping older residents in the city find nearby public bathrooms, the map can be used by anyone, with officials noting it may also be of interest to persons with disabilities, parents with young children and tourists.

The map boasts a simple and easy-to-use design, wherein one just goes to the website, types in the neighborhood or landmark that they’re near, puts in the day of the week and is pointed to the nearest facility. Boston has been steadily rolling out new open data features similar to this one for over a year now, aiming to use its tech and information to raise quality of life in the city.

San Antonio Moves Forward with Innovation Zones

Following in the footsteps of burgeoning tech hubs like Denver, Las Vegas and Kansas City, Mo., San Antonio is moving forward with plans to develop three innovation zones within the city.

According to local news outlets, San Antonio CIO Jose De La Cruz recommended the creation of these zones this week during a city council meeting as part of the ongoing tech development initiative Smart SA. De La Cruz suggested placing them in three areas that have existing fiber-optic cable, pointing to the city’s downtown, medical center and Brooks neighborhood.

While many details are yet to be determined, the general idea behind the zones in other cities has been that they proliferate technology and smart city work in order to improve the local quality of life.

Plans in San Antonio call for a vendor summit soon, where officials will lay out local challenges for private companies and technologists to propose solutions before seeking formal proposals for work.

These zones would be the latest component to accelerating tech efforts underway in the Alamo City. San Antonio also recently launched CivTechSA, a variation of the larger national Startup in Residence program. CivTechSA aims to connect local government departments with challenges to students, nonprofits and private companies that can potentially help solve them.

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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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