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What’s New in Civic Tech: CfA Launches Safety Net Scorecard

Plus, Virginia launches a statewide public health equity dashboard, data from Yelp shows the impact of car-free streets in communities, Alabama launches new centralized COVID-19 response app, and more.

Civic tech data
Code for America (CfA) — the nation’s leading nonpartisan and nonprofit civic tech organization — has created and shared a new safety net scorecard, which it built with government partners in Washington, Illinois and Minnesota, the group’s leader has announced.

The goal of the scorecard is to give government stakeholders an easier way to measure whether their safety net programs are “effectively, accurately, and equitably serving those who need help most,” the group wrote on the scorecard announcement page. The group also noted that current measures “simply do not tell us whether programs deliver services effectively to the people who need them.”

To this end, the scorecard seeks to provide government decision-makers with a human-centered means to measure the success of safety net programs.

The scorecard pays significant attention to equitable digital access, an area that government in general has perhaps overlooked, traditionally speaking. As such, the scorecard asks questions about the online user experience, including whether it is easy to use, if it works easily on mobile devices and whether there are easily accessible physical locations for users who don’t have access to the Internet.

This is all in keeping with the major initiatives that CfA has invested its time and resources to support in recent years, the majority of which are aimed at ensuring people who are eligible for safety net programs have simple ways to access them, ultimately raising the percentage of folks who get the help available to them. These projects have included significant work with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food benefits as well as Medicaid and income tax credits.

As the scorecard notes, the successful delivery and progress of safety net programs should be measured against three key indicators: the aforementioned equitable access, effective delivery and compassionate integrity. The scorecard goes into far more detail about each of these. Interested parties can download the scorecard now. (Zack Quaintance)


Virginia has launched a pair of statewide health equity dashboards that offer a glimpse of its COVID-19 recovery efforts along with other key health data, the governor’s office has announced.

The two dashboards are titled Equity in Action and Equity at a Glance, and they were built by the Virginia Health Equity Leadership Taskforce (ELT), which partnered with several other agencies for the project. The Equity in Action Dashboard focuses specifically on the state’s COVID-19 response and recovery efforts, while the Equity at a Glance Dashboard seeks to foster a transparent assessment of the social determinants and related factors that influence health equity. An overview of the dashboards is up now on the state’s website.

Finally, the governor’s office also noted in its announcement that there are plans for future versions of these dashboards that will involve topical expansion, moving into areas such as criminal justice and workforce diversity. (Zack Quaintance)


Health-care professionals and government officials in Alabama now have access to the ShareSafe Response Network, a new app designed as a collaborative platform for COVID-19 response.

Powered by Vortex, the system encourages data exchange and communication with the goal of uniting different organizations that are doing pandemic-related work in the public health field. The ultimate purpose of the platform is to improve information accuracy, save time for stakeholders and increase reporting compliance.

The app is designed for other potential uses as well, including patient care and high-level government employees. The app can quickly deliver protocol information and training to those who need it. It also includes COVID-19 forecasting models, allowing hospitals and other health-care organizations to prepare for expected spikes.

In addition, the platform will combine data from reliable sources like the Centers for Disease COntrol and Prevention (CDC), allowing users to have important information available to them.

“I can see this mobile infrastructure providing a backbone for deploying future initiatives beyond COVID-19 that will result in improving the quality of care for the citizens of Alabama,” said Peter Pronovost, adviser to the Department of Health and Human Services.

For more information or to register for the app, visit (Julia Edinger)


The pandemic gave many cities the opportunity to deploy no-traffic or limited-traffic streets, taking advantage of a situation that confined people to their homes by testing urban planning ideas that had long been under discussion.

Essentially, with fewer cars needing to use the streets, cities across the country limited access to their thoroughfares, in some cases creating areas where restaurants and businesses were able to put tables in traffic lanes. As cities weigh what to do with these projects now that life begins to return to more normal circumstances, the restaurant review aggregator Yelp has released a data set related to the projects. The data shows an increase in consumer interest for businesses located within or near these projects.

Bloomberg CityLab covered the data in full this week, noting that while the nature of the programs varied between jurisdictions, five major U.S. cities experienced this uptick in interest, with those being Boise, Idaho; Boston; Burbank, Calif.; Chicago; and San Francisco.

While there is, of course, a lot more to this situation — including whether the availability of safer outdoor seating during COVID-19 was a clear determining factor — the Yelp data does provide an interesting glimpse into a civic experiment conducted by many cities during the pandemic. (Zack Quaintance)


Venture capital firm General Catalyst (GC) has announced a new investment in civic technology.

Specifically, GC is launching a new civic technology sector that will focus on five core areas of investment: aerospace, defense and national security; public safety; higher education, elementary education and reskilling Americans; transportation and logistics; and advanced manufacturing, rural development and physical infrastructure.

The firm notes in its announcement that startups are assuming government responsibilities in a lot of ways. One reason, it states, is that venture capitalists can take on risk more easily than the American taxpayer. It also notes that political gridlocks sometimes restrict potential for systemic solutions, while startups are able to scale and fix problems without the same limitations.

The practice will be launched out of Miami, as announced by GC partner Katherine Boyle on Twitter. In a conversation with Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, she emphasized the importance of civic technology investment to empower startups working with government in order to solve complex civic problems. (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.