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What's New in Civic Tech: GovLab Pushes Data Collaborations, Trump Names Federal Chief Digital Officer

Plus, a sneak peek at the new federal Web design standards and further efforts to encrypt government Web domains.

What's New in Civic Tech is a weekly look back at highlights and happenings in the world of civic tech.

GovLab Launches Data Collaboratives Website

In an effort to help public groups such as government agencies better connect with the private sector, the Governance Lab at the New York University Tandon School of Engineering has launched a new website:

The site is aimed at serving the public good through data collaboratives, which go beyond the existing public-private partnership model to facilitate the exchange of data between government groups and private entities, particularly companies. In a press release announcing the site, the GovLab pointed to an increasing acknowledgment worldwide that sharing data can help society battle problems such as hunger, natural disasters and disease. 

This new site is something of a crash course for those who are unfamiliar with the concept of data collaboratives, offering information about types of data, uses for collaboratives, associated risks, and more than 70 examples of how corporate data has previously been exchanged to improve lives. By partnering with UNICEF and Omidyar Network, the GovLab has created this site and archived dozens of cases in which data is presently being used to help. These examples include situational awareness and response, public service design and delivery, knowledge creation and transfer, prediction and forecasting, and impact assessment and evaluation. 

The site is being launched to coincide with the inaugural United Nations World Data Forum in Cape Town, South Africa, and the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

U.S. Department of Education Launches Developer Hub, APIs

The U.S. Department of Education has created an official centralized spot to release application program interfaces (APIs) and work with developers.

The department launched the GitHub site on Jan. 17, along with two new APIs. To go along with its existing college scorecard API, it also created doorways to data on its Civil Rights Data Collection initiative as well as outgoing President Barack Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper project.

According to a post on the GitHub site, the department turned to 18F for help streamlining its API creation process. As a result, it hopes to release more in the future — at the moment, it’s taking requests through the new developer hub.

The hub will also serve as a place for the department to celebrate the work people do with its data, and for the department to announce its own data work. The code for the developer hub is open source, according to the post.

Trump Names Federal Chief Digital Officer

President-elect Trump’s first technology appointment was made Jan. 19, when he named Gerrit Lansing to be the federal chief digital officer. Lansing has been the chief digital officer for the Republican National Committee since May 2015. Prior to that he was the National Republican Congressional Committee’s digital director and press secretary for the House Budget Committee under Rep. Paul Ryan.

The Obama administration added the role of chief digital officer to the White House in April 2015. At the time, Jason Goldman brought his Silicon Valley experience to the position, having previously worked for Google, Medium and Twitter.

DigitalGov Prepares to Release Full Version of U.S. Web Design Standards

The U.S. General Services Administration is releasing a full, detailed version of the U.S. Web Design Standards, the federal government’s shared visual style and UI components for its designers and developers, the organization announced in a blog post.

In the blog, which was posted Jan. 17, DigitalGov also stressed the importance of agencies being mobile first and using Web performance data as metrics for success. To this end, the group promised there will be more tools and open-source code updates available through the U.S. Web Design Standards updates. DigitalGov has also invited interested parties to attend a relevant webinar slated for Jan. 25. 

The release represents an expanded and full version of the U.S. Web Design Standards, which have been out since September 2015. In fact, government numbers show that in the third quarter of 2016 alone, more than 62 million people were exposed to the standards, 54 million of whom were seeing them for the first time. One of the goals of these standards is to help all government sites create a uniform and better experience for the public, while also giving designers and developers flexibility that allows for ease of use.

U.S. GSA to Require Encrypted Domains for All New Executive Branch Websites

After more than 300 federal government websites missed the U.S. chief information officer’s deadline to migrate to HTTPS, or encrypted domains, the General Services Administration is planning on making the move mandatory for all new executive branch sites.

The move will go into effect sometime in the spring, according to a blog post on the CIO’s website. That will mean communication between users and the domains will be encrypted, making it harder for hackers to attack.

“Browsers will strictly enforce HTTPS for these domains and their subdomains,” the post reads. “Users will not be able to click through certificate warnings.”

It also means that agencies offering services through those sites will need to make sure those services are compatible with a secure encryption.

The CIO originally set a deadline for all federal websites to be encrypted by the beginning of 2017, but as of Jan. 11, about 30 percent of websites still weren't in compliance.

Ben Miller is the associate editor of data and business for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.