What’s New in Civic Tech: Baltimore Offers New Internships

Plus, Dayton, Ohio, rolls out a police transparency portal for public info; Howard County, Md., announces a new robust digital equity initiative; and a Florida sheriff’s office deploys tech to find wandering seniors.

The Baltimore skyline as seen from a dock on the water.
Shutterstock
Baltimore is launching a new initiative to place high school interns with tech companies, many of which have a public interest or civic tech focus.

The new internship will span six weeks and include all paid positions. To make it happen, Baltimore is partnering with a local equity-focused workforce coalition called Baltimore Tracks, a computer science education nonprofit called Code in the Schools and the Baltimore public school system itself. In this first year, 12 interns will work at 10 firms from June 28 to Aug. 6.

Interns are expected to work with technologies, including artificial intelligence, that are increasingly foundational to civic tech. Other work will include building websites and coding.

The very nature of the program perhaps speaks most directly to civic tech, with one of local government’s primary roles within civic tech being that of a convener. Interacting with young technologists and providing them with service-related opportunities is also increasingly being taken up by government agencies as they seek to entice young talent to the public sector, doing so by exposing them to the often-rewarding aspects of the work.

“Baltimore is home to a growing tech industry, and partnerships like this one show the power of local government, nonprofits, and the private sector coming together for the benefit of our young people,” said Baltimore Mayor Brandon M. Scott in a statement. “We must continue to build on this cross-sector collaboration to create more pathways to careers for Baltimore youth, which will undoubtedly build a more equitable, thriving city.” (Zack Quaintance)

DAYTON, OHIO, LAUNCHES POLICE TRANSPARENCY PORTAL


Dayton, Ohio, has launched a Police Transparency Portal, aiming to give community members access to all public information related to police department data, policies and more.

The portal has five main interactive dashboards, displaying statistics on reported crimes, calls for service, arrests, use of force and officer-involved shootings.

The portal is also part of a police reform effort dating back to June 2020, which was created in response to the protests that followed the murder of George Floyd. Recommendations for reform were made to the city commission by working groups, each co-led by a city commissioner and a community leader.

The new portal offers insight into the progress of these reform recommendations with a feature dubbed the Reform Tracker. This interactive dashboard displays the actions being implemented and their progress statuses.

While announcing the new portal, Mayor Nan Whaley said Dayton is an outcome-driven city, citing data as a central component of that.

“We understand the relationship with police and community, not only in Dayton but across the country, has been difficult and trust is hard to build,” said Whaley. “And so, what we’re trying to do is show rather than tell.” (Julia Edinger)

HOWARD COUNTY, MD., DEBUTS DIGITAL EQUITY INITIATIVE


Howard County, Md., has announced a series of new actions to foster digital inclusion.

Transform Howard, a digital equity initiative aimed at fostering digital inclusion in the county, will work to improve broadband access. The initiative will address digital inclusion in several ways, from expanding Wi-Fi at parks to distributing devices to residents.

One significant component of Transform Howard is the establishment of an Office of Broadband and Digital Inclusion to direct efforts moving forward.

In addition, the county unveiled a new website to increase accessibility. It is accessible on any browser and will follow Website Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1. The website also has a space for community feedback, and there are plans to continue evolving efforts in order to keep pace with the needs of the community. (Julia Edinger)

FLORIDA SHERIFF’S OFFICE USES TECH TO PROTECT WANDERING SENIORS


The Sumter County, Fla., Sheriff’s Office has tapped a new technology that can be used to track seniors, especially those suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s.

The office is working with Clairvoyant Networks to use a wristwatch that monitors location. Family members or other trusted contacts can connect with the wearer through an app on their smartphones. There is also a call function to connect audibly to someone wearing the watch if necessary.

The goal is to allow people with these conditions to have more freedom while protecting them from risks associated with wandering, which can be prevalent among those with dementia.

This project is part of the county’s Dementia Recovery, Education and Management (DREAM) program, which aims to improve autonomy for the approximately 16,000 people in the county with Alzheimer’s or dementia, according to the DREAM webpage. It can also help children with autism who may wander. The program is funded by a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Officials say the new technology has the potential to not only help protect the safety and autonomy of those prone to wandering but also save taxpayers money on search-and-rescue operations. (Julia Edinger)
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.
Associate editor for <i>Government Technology</i> magazine