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What’s New in Civic Tech: Bloomberg Philanthropies Selects Finalists for Mayors Challenge

Plus, New York City updates its “Ready NYC” mobile app that encourages users to make disaster plans; Nashville launches NashView community data map; and what’s happening for Open Data Day 2018?

Bloomberg Philanthropies has announced its 35 Champion Cities for its 2018 Mayors Challenge, a nationwide competition aimed at encouraging municipal government leaders to find innovative solutions for the common problems cities face.

The 35 winners were selected from a pool of 320 applications, and they will now start six-month testing phases, according to an announcement from Bloomberg. During that time, the cities will conduct public prototypes of the winning solutions they submitted to the challenge. In turn, Bloomberg will supply grant funding of up to $100,000 per city.

In the immediate future, a team from each city will visit Bloomberg Philanthropies Ideas Camp in New York City, where they will receive coaching and feedback from other participants while working to strengthen their ideas. In addition to this trip and the grant funding, participants will get “personalized support from innovation experts, to test and begin building support for their urban innovations,” according to the announcement.

The 35 winners represent a wide range of cities spread across the nation. From major metros such as Washington, D.C., to smaller jurisdictions such as Georgetown, Texas; Elk Grove, Calif.; and Coral Gables, Fla. The proposals they presented are just as diverse, taking on challenges that include climate, health, the opioid crisis and preventing arrested youth from re-entering the criminal justice system, among many others.

More information about both the cities and their proposals, as well as the 2018 Mayors Challenge itself, can be found here. This is the first time since 2013 that the challenge has been open to cities in the United States. In 2014, it was open to cities in Europe, and in 2016, it was open to cities in Latin America and the Caribbean. The challenge is part of the Bloomberg American Cities Initiative, and it will ultimately invest $17.5 million in grants and technical assistance.

New York City updates its “Ready NYC” mobile app that encourages users to make disaster plans

New York City has announced plans to update its Ready NYC mobile app, which is part of the Ready New York public education campaign that encourages residents to prepare a plan before a disaster strikes.

With the app, users can store important information such as emergency contacts, potential meeting places, health information and supply lists of the things they would need should a disaster strike. The forthcoming updates will include new text and in improved interface that will be compatible with the latest versions of the iOS and Android operating systems.

Other key features within the app include tips and information about what residents should and can do during emergencies, as well as an alerts feed from Notify NYC, which is New York City’s official source of info about emergency events.

These updates and the app itself are the work of the NYC Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications.

“The Ready NYC app puts vital planning resources for all types of emergencies at New Yorkers’ fingertips,” said Samir Saini, commissioner of the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, in a press release. “It’s a one-stop-shop for emergency preparedness that can be accessed in any situation. We’re constantly improving our city mobile applications and leveraging technology as a service to help the city become stronger and more resilient.”

Nashville launches NashView community data map

Nashville has launched NashView, a map that provides easy-to-understand information about services the municipal government provides to businesses and residents of the city.

NashView is essentially a data map that enables users to take an in-depth look at the local government’s activity by neighborhood. Interested parties can use NashView’s map-based viewer to browse information about resident requests, building permits, municipal buildings and more. All information is organized on the map by location.

In an announcement for NashView, city officials emphasized that it is designed as a complement to hubNashville, which is Davison County’s own one-stop shop for its services. With hubNashville, users can identify issues, make service requests and track the progress of service deliveries. With NashView, those very same users can then browse a visualization of what’s being reported in their neighborhoods, as well as throughout the rest of the country.

NashView was developed by the prominent gov tech company, Socrata, and it is powered by Metro Nashville’s open data portal. It comes equipped with a wide range of fields users can employ to visualize its information by Metro Council district, school district and ZIP code.

Nasvhille is currently at work on integrating the new platform into’s home page, work that officials expect to be completed in the coming months.

What’s happening for Open Data Day 2018 near you?

Boy, Open Data Day really came fast this year, so fast in fact that you might not be ready for or aware of the great Open Data Day events happening in your area.

Not to worry, however. Some intrepid technologists have created an Open Data Day map that visualizes the dozens of affiliated events taking place across the globe. Open Data Day, by the way, is on Saturday, March 3, 2018, and, for those who don’t know, the event stands as an annual celebration of open data all over the world. This is the seventh year in which groups have come together to coordinate events in their communities.

This year’s Open Data Day events will also have a focus, meaning there are four key areas that organizers believe open data work can solve. Those areas are open research data, tracking public money flows, open mapping and data for equal development. There are roughly 20 events taking place throughout the United States, and the map can help you find the one closest to you. 

Associate editor for Government Technology magazine.