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What's New in Civic Tech: CfA Releases Inclusion Report

Plus, New York City moves to expand access to high-speed Internet for housing authority residents, and a Florida city wins a national award for using communication effectively to inspire change.

Code for America (CfA) — the nation's preeminent civic tech group — has released its 2020 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Report.

Noting that "equity is a core value that underpins all that we do," CfA wrote in an announcement that they strive to incorporate the same set of values in their internal work as the equity work they do with government agencies. One of the key findings shared in the diversity report is that more than 50 percent of CfA's team identifies as people of color, which is up from roughly 40 percent as recently as two years ago. In addition, 60 percent of the group's executive team is made up of women of color, including CfA CEO Amanda Renteria.

At CfA, women comprise a majority at all levels of the organization. However, representation of women at the director or above positions has declined as the group has expanded in recent years.

Of special note is the diversity within the group's technical positions, a category that in many organizations has long been dominated by men. At CfA, 48 percent of the engineering and data science team identifies as women or nonbinary, while 40 percent are people of color.

The report also notes that CfA's biggest representation gap is with Latino members, a group that is only 11 percent of the staff. For context, 22 percent of the population in the California Bay Area, where CfA is headquartered, is Latino, and 18 percent of the country is Latino. The biggest area for improvement in this regard is the aforementioned engineering and data science team.

Interested parties can read or download the full report on CfA's website now. (Zack Quaintance)

New York City to Expand Low-Cost Broadband Access

New York City’s Internet Master Plan for Universal Broadband reached a major milestone this week, with high-speed Internet access being made available for 10,000 New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents in the Bronx. The announcement came from Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer, John Paul Farmer.

The expansion comes as the city and NYCHA made agreements with BlocPower, the sixth finalist selected from the city’s request for expressions of interest (RFEI), which was issued in partnership with the NYC Economic Development Corporation in June 2020.

BlocPower will bring free Internet access to NYCHA residents in the Bronx for the first year; the service will cost $15 per month after that.

This effort is part of the plan announced in January 2020 to close the digital divide in the city. More information about the NYC Internet Master Plan can be found on the city’s website. (Julia Edinger)  

Florida City Wins National Award for Communications

Port St. Lucie, Fla., has won the Sharman Stein Award for Storytelling Changemakers in 2021, according to an announcement from Results for America, the group that gives out the accolade.

The award — which honors the civic tech support organization What Works Cities' founding director of communications — is given to a city official or a local government team that uses communication to foster trust between local government and the residents that it serves. This year's award goes to the communications department at Port St. Lucie, a city of about 190,000 on Florida's Atlantic coast.

In giving the award, organizers cited a wide range of accomplishments, including a National Community Survey that found that more than 60 percent of Port St. Lucie residents rate the city's communications efforts as strong. In addition, the department's outreach efforts were able to drastically increase attendance at local government virtual events in the past year. Perhaps most importantly, the city recently topped its 2010 U.S. Census response rate and exceeded the national average response rate for the 2020 Census.

As noted above, the prize was given by Results for America, the lead partner of What Works Cities, a Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative that helps cities use evidence and data to overcome pressing challenges. (Zack Quaintance)
Associate editor for Government Technology magazine.
Julia Edinger is a staff writer for <i>Government Technology</i>. 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.