What’s New in Civic Tech: CfA Compiles COVID Response Work

Plus, the submissions are almost due for MetroLab’s Civic Innovation Challenge, a new data visualization shows the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on America’s low-income communities, and more.

Louisville code for america
The Code for America (CfA) Brigade Network has been rolling out localized civic tech projects for months, and now the national organization has compiled a list of relevant actions.

“While it’s incredibly important that we stay informed about the scale of the tragedy, it’s also important to examine the scale of the response — and what it shows us about the future that’s within our reach, if we have the courage to keep fighting for it,” wrote Brigade Network Senior Director Meredith Horowski as an intro for the list.

On the list itself, interested parties will find a wide variety of civic tech projects, as well as a wide range of locations where they are taking place. Hack for LA, for example, used its existing Food Oasis project in a new way, hosting a new call-a-thon with it that made its data updated and relevant for the time during COVID-19. Code for Dayton, meanwhile, built a new app from scratch called Flo’s Whistle that nurses can use to anonymously report incidents of compromised patient safety that stem from inadequate staffing.

In addition to the list, there is also a link to a Code for America Slack Community
sign-up that users can follow to join in the conversation about how to use civic tech to respond to the pandemic. Officials also noted that the online list is just a representative handful of the projects taking place.

“For many Americans, the way our government does (or doesn’t) deliver services has always been a matter of life or death,” Horowski also wrote. “It’s thanks to COVID-19 that public consciousness has put a magnifying glass to it like never before. Collectively, we’ve ‘shown what’s possible.’ And we can’t go back.”

Submissions Due for MetroLab’s Civic Innovation Challenge

The home stretch has arrived for submissions to MetroLab’s Civic Innovation Challenge, with the deadline for that being Aug. 3.

As those interested may already know, there are two tracts for teams of researchers and civic partners to submit within. The first tract is communities and mobility, and the second is resilience to natural disasters. This deadline is a bit extended, due to the pandemic. What has also changed is that one of the partner organizations, the National Science Foundation, has helped to increase funding related to the contest to $11 million.

In addition to the National Science Foundation and MetroLab, the other involved groups include the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. More information is available on the challenge’s website.

Data Visualizations Show Disproportionate Impact of COVID-19 on Low-Income Neighborhoods

A series of new data visualizations by FiveThirtyEight shows the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 is having on low-income communities.

FiveThirtyEight posted a writeup of a series of heavy analysis, complete with the data visualizations. What the website found was that in regions across the country, it is easier to get tested for COVID-19 for residents of wealthier areas. It also found that Black and Hispanic communities are being hit by the virus hardest.

To make these determinations, FiveThirtyEight used Census block data, layering it into maps with another data set about demand for testing. 

How Have Alaska’s Names Changed Over Time?

Finally, in lighter news, a civic tech group in Anchorage, Ala., has visualized how the most popular names in that state have changed over time. 

The work was done by one of the aforementioned Code for America brigades, Code for Anchorage, and the group’s resultant data mapping is online now. Users of this project can search by a specific name, or they can toggle the visualization based on a number of pre-set fields, including biggest increase, biggest decrease, top 10 names on the rise, and more.

Associate editor for Government Technology magazine