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What’s New in Civic Tech: America’s Worst Connected Cities

Plus, IBM has released the list of regional finalists for its international civic tech contest Call for Code, and the MetroLab summit has kicked off its month-long slate of online panels and other programming.

The National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) has released a list of the cities in the United States facing the biggest struggles with Internet connections by drawing from the 2019 American Community Survey (ACS) One-Year Estimates.

Dubbed America’s Worst Connected Cities, the rankings are based on analysis of the survey that is done by the NDIA. This year, the group looked at all cities in the United States with 65,000 residents or more, broadening it from past efforts to include mid-size and smaller jurisdictions. At the top of the list were a pair of cities in the Rio Grande Valley region of Texas, which can be found in the southeast corner of the state.

Pharr, Texas, which is adjacent to McAllen, Texas, ranked as the least-connected city in the country, with 59.66 percent of residents there having no access to Internet at all, including via cellular data plans. In addition, 68.75 percent of residents of the city, which is near the U.S.-Mexico border, did not have wireline Internet connections. Other cities in the region that placed high on the worst-connected list were Brownsville and Harlingen. 

Larger cities that fared poorly on the list included Cleveland, Miami, and Newark, N.J., all of which have a substantial number of households that lack broadband of any type. 

All told, the NDIA used the info from the 2019 American Community Survey to determine that there are at least 185 jurisdictions of various sizes in the country where 30 percent of households lack wireline Internet service, spread across varied sizes and geographies.

IBM Announces Call for Code Finalists

IBM has announced the regional finalists for its civic tech competition, Call for Code.

The idea behind this contest is simple: as the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change continue to impact life in 2020, developers are being asked to unite and create applications that can help via open source technology. These are, essentially, solutions aimed at addressing these challenges. In addition, the developers are invited to work on their projects with humanitarian experts.

The regional finalists for the 2020 challenge are broken down by Asia Pacific, Europe, Greater China, Japan, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, and North America. The list of projects selected here is large and varied, with the unifying factor being they all tapped open source technology, the list of which includes Red Hat OpenShift, IBM Cloud, IBM Watson, IBM Blockchain, data from The Weather Company, and APIs from partners like HERE Technologies and IntelePeer.

Since this civic tech contest first began in 2018, it has involved more than 400,000 developers and other participants from 179 nations. 

MetroLab Summit Kicks Off Online

The MetroLab Summit began this week, kicking off a month of online programming around that group’s core mission — bridging gaps to help foster better collaborations between government and academia. 

Like so many other government technology-related events this year, this one was originally scheduled to be held in person, with COVID-19 forcing it to pivot and go online. One thing that is perhaps unique about the online incarnation of the MetroLab Summit is that it has spread a variety of programming out across an entire month. The programming for the event ranges from proposals to the MetroLab Student Cup to panels about the future of privacy to climate roundtables.

Interested parties can register for select portions of the MetroLab Summit via the event’s website.

Associate editor for Government Technology magazine.