What’s New in Civic Tech: CfA Makes All 2020 Events Virtual

Plus, a Georgetown University center is emphasizing the importance of state CDOs during dual crises, Arkansas’ governor has created a new technology advisory board to address COVID-19, and more.

Louisville code for america
Code for America (CfA), the nonpartisan and nonprofit group in the vanguard of U.S. civic tech work, has decided to move all of its in-person events for 2020 online, CfA officials announced via email this week.

“As COVID-19 continues to transform all our lives, our team is working hard to enable ways to support each other and our community from afar,” CfA wrote in the email. “With safety as a top priority, Code for America has decided to move all in-person events for 2020 to a virtual format. We’re committed to adapting events we all know and love — like National Day of Civic Hacking in the fall — to a virtual format, while exploring new events to bring to our community.”

With that in mind, the group rolled out a full slate of digital programming through the end of this month, including four events related to technology as it applies to community and government. 

Those events include three next week, which are Exploring Design Distortions in Government
, Power to Fly’s Diversity Reboot 2020, and How Can Data Science Support an Inclusive Recovery?; as well as a fourth event on June 25, which is People Power: Connecting Community to Government During COVID-19, a panel that will feature Code for America’s brigade network of localized civic tech groups the nation over. 

Moving forward, CfA will be rolling out upcoming virtual programming for the rest of the calendar year via its events page. What makes this move significant is that it seems likely to influence the rest of the civic tech community to keep things online as well, with so many localized groups being part of the CfA Brigade Network.

The Importance of the State CDO During Crises

The Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation at Georgetown University is emphasizing the importance of the state CDO role amid crises. 

In a press release this week, the center noted, “The COVID-19 pandemic and recent protests against police brutality highlight the unique position the state government plays and how it directly impacts people’s lives. Data is already in the spotlight and will be critical in how states recover from the pandemic and address systemic racism if leveraged properly.”

In the service of those ideas, the Beeck Center, which is host to the 25-member State CDO Network, has worked to put together a framework it hopes can help guide states in creating and supporting successful data programs. 

This framework is primarily supported by a pair of tools. The first is a report entitled The Evolving Role of the State Chief Data Officer, and it is intended to help decision-makers and others involved with state data work shape the roles and responsibilities of state CDOs, whether they have that position already or are looking to create it. 

The second is a guidebook entitled State Data Policy Option Guidelines, and it comes equipped with examples of legislation from states across the country that support the data program framework. With this tool, the center notes that it expects “the policy options will grow over time as states continue implementing effective solutions.”

This sort of best practices and support work is something that has existed at the city level for some time and is now starting to become more mature at the state level, supported as it is in large part by the Beeck Center and the State CDO Network.

Arkansas Creates Tech Advisory Board to Help Combat COVID-19

Arkansas has created a state-level tech advisory board to make recommendations for how technology can be used to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.

Dubbed the COVID-19 Technical Advisory Board, the new group was announced via a press release from Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s office, with the governor noting in a recent press release that the goal of this is “to review and evaluate new technologies as the state’s public health agencies develop strategies for testing and contact tracing.”

Hutchinson created the board via an executive order, and he has tapped Dr. Austin Porter III as the chair. Porter currently serves as the deputy chief science officer within Arkansas’ Department of Health. Using tech to accomplish successful contact tracing was a key part of why the governor said he created this board, given the fast-changing nature of contact tracing technology.

In total there are 12 members of the board, and the expertise they bring is a diverse mix of technology, medicine, health care and science. 

Baltimore Office of Performance and Innovation Looks to Hire Analyst

Finally, the Baltimore Office of Performance and Innovation is looking to hire a new CitiStat analyst.

The posting can be found here. Primarily, this is a role that will do data work for the city, including supporting data-driven services, integrating modern analytics tools with policy, helping elected leaders use data to inform decisions, and supporting a data-driven culture within Baltimore.

Associate editor for Government Technology magazine