What’s New in Civic Tech: Developers Launch COVID19.NYC

Plus, Bloomberg expands the COVID-19 Local Response Initiative to help communities receiving federal aid, the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation launches a new coronavirus resource site, and more.

by / March 26, 2020
Workers built a makeshift morgue outside Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan on Wednesday to deal with a potential surge of coronavirus victims. Gov. Cuomo sounded the alarm Wednesday that coronavirus cases and deaths are still spiking in New York. (Luiz C. Ribeiro for New York Daily News/TNS) TNS

A group of technologists in New York City have now launched COVID19.NYC, which is a website offering public health info to New Yorkers during the novel coronavirus crisis.

The site is informational and data-based, aimed at aggregating info from a range of medical authorities, including the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the local government in New York City, and more. What the site does, essentially, is take a set of disparate information related to the coronavirus and centralize it in one place.

Visiting the site, users can view how many New Yorkers have died from the virus, how many have tested positive for it, and what the change has been compared to the previous day. There’s more information, and users can also toggle between New York City, New York state, the United States and the entire world.

In a press release announcing the website, developers noted that “the team behind COVID19.NYC quickly realized that everyday New Yorkers had no centralized place to turn to find simple, clear, fact-based information and instructions from authorities. COVID19.NYC provides non-editorialized resources and updates from public health experts and government officials in a plain online dashboard.”

The information goes beyond simple numbers, also offering lists of symptoms, precautions, frequently asked questions and other actionable knowledge for both residents and health-care workers. Developers noted that the site itself is not creating any wholly new information, nor is it purporting to be a news organization. 

This project is being led by Emil Skandul, who is the founder of Capitol Foundry, a design-driven tech firm that builds websites and apps for startups, as well as for other brands. The team that built the new site also includes health-care entrepreneurs, among other volunteers.

Bloomberg Philanthropies Expands COVID-19 Local Response Initiative

Bloomberg Philanthropies is expanding its COVID-19 Local Response Initiative to now include logistical help for cities that are receiving or preparing to receive federal aid amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

The main thrust of the now-expanded program — which is being conducted as part of a partnership with the U.S. Conference of Mayors — is to help cities document costs so as to ultimately ensure proper reimbursement of federal funds in support of coronavirus response and recovery. In addition, the expanded program will highlight best practices and provide tutorials related to how to apply for and receive aid. 

Other facets of this new support are described by Bloomberg Philanthropies as “a robust technical assistance program,” which will give cities writing guidance, easy-to-use tools, and coaching from experts, as Bloomberg Philanthropies has been providing local government in the service of innovation for years. 

“Navigating federal assistance programs is complicated for cities in general, let alone under the unprecedented circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Adam Freed, principal at Bloomberg Associates, in a statement. “We wanted to provide mayors with insights and recommendations from some of the country’s leading experts on how to access and maximize federal relief so that cities have the resources they need as front line responders.”

Finally, other plans call for Bloomberg and the U.S. Conference of Mayors to convene experts with past experience overseeing government stimulus and funding during crises, with the goal there being to share their expertise with leaders who find themselves in a similar situation now. To this end, there will be virtual sessions and an e-311 functionality that enables cities to ask questions of the experts.

The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation Launches Resource Site

The Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation has also launched a coronavirus resource site for state and local government stakeholders. 

Noting that the site will be continuously updated, the launch announcement came with a list of content, including new materials being developed by the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership, reports from the Ash Center’s Program on Crisis Leadership, mapping tools from the center’s Data-Smart City Solutions project and more.

MetroLab Network to Host ‘Kitchen Table Talks’

Finally, the MetroLab Network, which works to facilitate better collaborations between academia and the public sector, has introduced a pair of new initiatives. 

The first is a resource guide that is essentially a list of resources specific to the civic and academic communities. The second is a series of Kitchen Table Talks, which the group is billing in its announcement as “small, informal MetroLab member discussions focused on how our cities and universities are adapting to the COVID-19 crisis.”

Interested parties can register for the talks here, and they will start on Tuesday, March 31.

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.

Platforms & Programs