What’s New in Civic Tech: The Directory of Local Gov Design Systems

Plus, state and local government agencies prepare for coming Data Privacy Day; Miami makes its new beta website official; new map visualizes Chicago’s most polluted neighborhoods; jobs in gov tech abound, and more.

by / January 24, 2019
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Noting that local government innovation has traditionally lagged, a civic technologist with experience at the federal level has created a directory for government design systems and pattern libraries.

All of the entries in the directory — which was created by Ron Bronson and has been dubbed the Non-Federal Government Design Systems and Pattern Library Directory — are open-sourced and from the municipal level. At least that was the original intent. On the directories home page, Bronson writes, “Since there are so few local government design systems that exist, I’ve expanded the repo to include state-level systems.”

So far, the list of resources available through the GitHub-hosted directory include Austin, Texas; Bloomington, Ind.; Boston; Philadelphia; Tampa; and the state of Massachusetts, among others. Bronson invites unlisted government agencies who qualify to submit their work to be added.

What’s involved here are design systems, which are complete sets of design standards, accompanying documentation and principles. It also includes the toolkits that technologists can use to meet and match design standards. A pattern library, for the uninitiated, is a subclass within the design system. It is, essentially, the design patterns that are used throughout an agency for various platforms and projects.

The directory Bronson has set up also extends out of the United States, including design systems and pattern libraries for places such as Bristol, United Kingdom; Cordoba, Argentina; and Alberta, Canada. The directory is, of course, free to use for any who are interested.

Miami Converts New Website from Beta Test to Official

Miami’s new user-centered website, which has been in development for some time, is now live as the city’s official website.

Miami made the switch earlier this week. The site was first launched as an alpha version in January 2017, with the city seeking public feedback. The new design was built as both a functional and aesthetic overhaul over its predecessor. It featured hip touches culled from the city’s artsier neighborhoods, and it also featured increasingly-standard user-centered design touches, such as a prominent search bar and easy-to-access list of the most popular functions.

Miami, like many cities across the country, as recently as a few years ago, had a fairly utilitarian website that was packed tight with text and drab colors. In a broader sense, Miami’s shift is representative in one happening across the country for cities of all sizes: moving from websites that are built solely to suit the needs of government to ones that are built with the needs of users in mind. It’s a shift being powered somewhat by the private sector, in that citizens now expect their municipal government websites to be as user-friendly and streamlined as something like Amazon.

While the new website is now official for Miami, the information from the old site is still online, archived via archive.miamigov.com. One can easily and immediately see the difference in the color schemes alone.

New Map Visualizes Chicago Neighborhoods Most at Risk from Pollution

A new visualization maps the neighborhoods in Chicago that are most at risk from pollution.

The map is aimed at illustrating the way inequities factor into even the pollution levels in certain parts of the city. It was created by the Natural Resources Defense Council, which is a nonprofit international group that works in the service of environmental advocacy. The map combines social demographic information from various neighborhoods — information like demographics, poverty, linguistic isolation, and other metrics — with environmental factors such as risks posed by air toxins, prevalence of lead paint exposure, and proximity to Superfund sites. Much of the data for the map was collected by the Environmental Protection Agency.   

One interesting facet of this map is that it goes beyond simply mapping factors against each other, instead combining the indicators in a way aimed at showing the cumulative impacts. Also, every neighborhood in the city was designated a cumulative score for its overall vulnerability, which was then mapped with a corresponding color on the map. Academics in California helped develop the method the map uses to combine its various factors, so as to illustrate the connection between inequity and environmental risks.  

Developers and advocates for the map have speculated that it could be a useful tool when it comes time to re-zone industrial developments or to spend the money that that the city was awarded as part of a multi-billion-dollar settlement with Volkswagen related to cheating emissions standards. Reports have noted that community advocacy groups have already started to use the map and the information it provides.

New York State Reminds Residents to Protect Selves in Honor of Data Privacy Day

The New York State Office of Information Technology Services and the Department of State Division of Consumer Protection has worked this week to remind both residents and business owners about the importance of protecting information online. In addition, they’ve shared privacy and data tips, too.

This awareness campaign comes in preparation of National Data Privacy Day, which is Jan. 28. New York state and the involved agencies are far from alone. In advance of the day, a number of cybersecurity and local government groups took the opportunity to spread awareness or host events related to bolstering online data protection.

New York included relevant statistics with its announcement of the campaign, noting that according to the 2017 Internet Crime Report that was published by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, the state ranked fourth-highest in the nation for the number of Internet crimes reported. As a result, the cost for the state was more than $88 million, which actually marked a decrease from the previous year, when the total was $106 million.

Some of the tips offered include securing mobile devices, being careful when using public Wi-Fi hot spots, knowing the specifications of the apps you download, being cautious about sharing certain information on social media, using strong passwords, and changing your security questions. New York’s Division of Consumer Protection also has a website with information related to security breaches and avoiding identity theft, which can be found here. New York's Office of Information Technology Services, meanwhile, has a website with more info and additional online security resources, which can be found here.

Jobs in Local and State Government Technology Work Abound

With the new year upon us, a seemingly larger-than-usual number of organizations involved with or adjacent to work in government technology are hiring.

Here is a brief list of some prominent job openings as well as places online that interested parties can find more information:

  • Philadelphia is searching for a director of software engineering to help modernize the city’s digital portfolio.

  • Code for America is looking to hire a data scientist to be based in San Francisco.

  • Los Angeles is searching for a program manager to join its Innovation Team and help implement a program aimed at incentivizing creating accessory dwelling units to be used for homeless housing.

  • Baltimore IT is looking to hire a deputy CIO to help with digital transformation work in that city.

  • The Knight Foundation is looking for paid summer interns to work on building informed and engaged communities in the following cities, Akron, Ohio; Miami; San Jose, Calif.; and St. Paul, Minn.

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.