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What’s New in Civic Tech: NYC Makes $157M Internet Investment

Plus, the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative announced its fourth class of participating mayors, the Code for All Summit 2020 will feature opening remarks from Code for America’s CEO, and more.

by / July 9, 2020
Carl Solder/Unsplash

New York City committed this week to addressing digital equity with a $157 million investment aimed at bringing Internet to 600,000 underserved residents.

Of those residents, the city reports that an estimated 200,000 live in public housing. This sum is the largest investment made at the city level nationwide in bringing affordable Internet to households, topping recent support in Chicago that totaled $100 million. Both of those giant grants are part of an ongoing wave of digital equity support at the local level sparked by the advent of the COVID-19 crisis, which starkly illustrated reasons the entirety of a community benefits from everyone having high-speed Internet access in the home.

The project will have an impact on all five boroughs, with a priority for the money put on public housing communities. It's of note that $87 million of the $157 million total is being redirected from the budget of the New York Police Department. What this money will do specifically is support new affordable Internet options being offered to communities during the next 18 months, with officials saying they hope it creates a path for the implementation of city-wide universal broadband.

Along with the announcement, officials noted that the extant NYC Internet Master Plan possesses research showing that 18 percent of households in New York City lack both a home and a mobile online connection.

Phase one of the investment plan is underway, and it involves collecting proposals for how best to extend service to the residents through a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI). This RFEI has found ready-to-deploy Internet ideas and pilots, with options potentially including discounted rates for public housing residents, solutions related to free Wi-Fi, and other innovation-heavy strategies. 

The next step is to announce partnerships in making it all a reality, which officials say should happen at the end of 2020, with an eye on deploying the work in full later this year and into 2021.

Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative Announces Fourth Class

The Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative — a program that helps local government leaders at the executive level take new, innovative approaches to shared problems — is returning for a fourth class.

Officials announced the new class this week via a press release, noting it would include 40 mayors of U.S. cities as well as a programming focus on recovering from the COVID-19 crisis. As the release noted, this program is “designed to equip mayors with the leadership and management tools to tackle complex challenges in their cities and improve the quality of life for their citizens.” This, of course, is especially important during a time when local government leadership is bearing so much responsibility in helping communities recover from a pandemic. The program will tackle that with an emphasis on ensuring equity as the recovery occurs.

This time around mayors will be attending online classes, which will, as always, be taught by faculty from the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School. In addition, they will have a chance to learn from management experts elsewhere within the Bloomberg Philanthropies network. 

Topics for the forthcoming mayoral sessions will include advancing recovery, budget decision-making amid severe economic challenges, managing a remote workforce, advancing equity and more. One area of note for those interested in civic tech is that there will also be training on how to use data to confront the economic consequences of the pandemic. 

The mayors are a diverse group from across the country, with their home cities ranging rom Boise, Idaho, to Youngstown, Ohio. 

Code for All Summit 2020 to Feature Opening Remarks from Code for America’s CEO

The Code for All Summit 2020 — which is set for July 14, 20, and 22 — will feature opening marks from Code for America’s CEO Amanda Renteria, who was named to the post earlier this year.

Renteria’s opening remarks will precede a first session that will feature interactive and information components centered around developing effective policies and procedures within tech organizations. It will also highlight the role policy development can play in aiding equity, diversity and inclusion, while at the same time preventing workplace bullying and discrimination. 

The interactive workshop segment will give those who participate an audit of their existing policies, potentially offering them ideas for improvements.

NDIA Partners on COVID-19 Digital Inclusion Podcast

Finally, as noted above, fostering digital inclusion and equity at the local level has become an objective of great import during the COVID-19 crisis, and so to address this, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) has been recording a related podcast.

Dubbed the #SpreadTheTech Podcast Series, the program is a joint effort between the NDIA and Digital Charlotte, an organization that is a member of its titular city’s own digital inclusion alliance. Episodes of the podcast have so far tackled issues such as how North Carolina’s state broadband office has responded to the crisis, how digital inclusion practitioners can partner with health-care providers, and more.

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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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