IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

What’s New in Civic Tech: 18F Launches State, Local Website

Plus, Chicago expands its education-focused digital equity program; Louisiana invests $180 million in expanding broadband infrastructure for underserved communities; and Boston launches a neighborhood database search.

18F
The federal tech consultancy 18F’s state and local team has launched a new website, aiming it at “state or local government with federal funds that would benefit from technical and procurement support,” the group announced on Twitter.

This marks the first time that the state and local support side of 18F has ever had a web presence, coinciding with an ongoing roughly 16-month pandemic-spurred period in which buy-in to, as well as understanding and prominence of, state and local tech work has soared. During the pandemic, traditionally slow government tech efforts at all levels were forced to accelerate, both to get public workers set up at home as well as to meet constituent needs for online services. It is, perhaps, safe to say that public-sector tech work at the state and local level has never seen such a concentrated burst of acceleration.

“We believe state and local technology can be reliable, accessible, integrated, user-friendly and effective,” 18F writes on its new state- and local-focused website.

To this end, the group also notes that it is currently working directly with a number of government agencies at the state and local levels. This list includes the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, the state of Vermont Agency of Human Services, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development and California Child Welfare Digital Services.

Reasons for partnering with the feds as listed by 18F are also on the site, and this list includes to increase the overall success rate of IT projects, to deliver value to end users, to modernize approach and to receive expert technical advice. There are multiple lengths of time available to work with 18F, ranging from short-term engagements aimed at less than 80 hours of technical support, to 3-month engagements that involve two to three digital experts supporting work, to as long as a year of in-depth digital consulting.

Interested parties involved with this work at the state and local levels are encouraged to contact 18F through the new website. (Zack Quaintance)

CHICAGO EXPANDS EDUCATION-FOCUSED DIGITAL EQUITY INITIATIVE


Chicago has announced an expansion of its Chicago Connected initiative, an education-focused digital equity program that has served about 64,000 students since its launch in June 2020.

Specifically, this includes an extension of Internet service for graduating seniors of Chicago Public Schools (CPS), the launch of a digital literacy training platform and a one-year impact review issued by Kids First Chicago.

For graduating CPS seniors, Internet service will be continued through Oct. 31. For those that go on to attend City Colleges of Chicago, free Internet service will be provided for three years or until completion of a degree — whichever happens first.

The learning platform was launched in partnership with the Chicago Citywide Literacy Coalition and Northstar Digital Literacy, offering free access to classroom curricula, training materials and assessments to improve computer skills.

The impact report released by Kids First Chicago surveyed more than 30,000 participating households, finding those enrolled in the program have a higher attendance rate than the school district average, among other things.

Chicago has also announced the reopening of applications for community-based organizations into the Chicago Connected coalition.

More information about the initiative can be found online. (Julia Edinger)

LOUISIANA TO INVEST $180 MILLION IN BROADBAND EXPANSION


Louisiana plans to spend $180 million over the next three years on grants for firms that construct broadband Internet infrastructure, according to the Associated Press.

The goal of this investment is to minimize the digital divide for underserved communities. The state's Office of Broadband Development and Connectivity will run the grant program. Telecommunications firms will have to cover at least 20 percent of costs and will have to provide high-speed Internet at an affordable price for the next five years.

To bring high-speed Internet to everyone in the state, it would require an investment of over one billion dollars, officials say, but the $180 million investment is expected to connect 145,000 households.

The legislation, House Bill 648, was sponsored by Rep. Daryl Deshotel, who runs a technology firm and has experience building wireless networks for school districts.

This effort is paired with $372 million in funding from the federal government to help providers extend coverage over the next 10 years. (Julia Edinger)

BOSTON LAUNCHES NEIGHBORHOOD DATABASE SEARCH PLATFORM


Boston has launched a new search platform that enables residents to find info they need to spur civic engagement.

The platform can be found on Boston's website, and it's relatively simple. Users put in their Boston address, and the site returns a listing of local representatives as well as public resources.

It's the type of project that centralizes readily available information into one place with an easy-to-access format, a tried and true civic tech classic. (Zack Quaintance)
Associate editor for Government Technology magazine
Julia Edinger is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Toledo and has since worked in publishing and media. She's currently located in Southern California.