IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

What’s New in Civic Tech: Code for America Staffers Unionize

Plus, National Day of Civic Hacking is set for next month; the Department of Commerce is putting $268 million toward connecting minority communities; and New Jersey is helping hearing-challenged individuals get online.

code for america room
Staffers at Code for America (CfA) — the nation’s preeminent civic tech organization — have now unionized, with the union announcing its formation earlier this week via Twitter.

The new union is called CfA Workers United, and it is affiliated with the Office and Professional Employees International Union. Its formation was announced on Wednesday.

“We, the workers of Code for America, are proud to announce that we are unionizing. Forming a union will promote transparency, ensure equity, increase staff well-being and retention, and add to the long list of reasons why Code for America is a leader in the fields of nonprofits and tech. As a union, we will build a stronger, more sustainable organization for all staff, the people we serve, and partners we work with,” CfA Workers United wrote on its website.

That website also notes that on Monday organizers sent a request for voluntary recognition to CfA leadership and are currently awaiting the response.

Supporters of the move hail it as not just a practical step for the workers involved, but also as a symbolic victory for those who work in civic tech, gov tech and even the private-sector tech industry.

The Verge reported that efforts to organize at CfA began a year ago. While staffers are generally happy with their work, the hope is to gain more of a say in changes at the organization. Also, 77 percent of eligible employees indicated support for the union. (Zack Quaintance)

NATIONAL DAY OF CIVIC HACKING SET FOR SEPT. 18


In other CfA news, the group has picked Sept. 18 this year as the National Day of Civic Hacking.

As such, CfA will host a virtual event on the day, which now in its ninth year serves as a rallying point to bring together “civic leaders, public servants, designers, coders and data scientists to partner with local communities and tackle some of our toughest challenges,” organizers wrote on its website. The event is titled Reimagining 911, and participants will join a collective action that will use civic tech to reimagine emergency response with human-centered approaches.

With 911 being one of the most well-known government services, it will serve as a great entry point for folks interested in seeing how civic tech can benefit communities.

“We’ve seen over and over again that an armed law enforcement response is not a one-size-fits-all solution,” organizers wrote. “What if we could transform the way our government provides emergency response services? There is an important opportunity here, but very little is understood about the system as a whole and its levers for change.”

As the day approaches, more civic tech events will almost certainly be announced across the country, as has been the case in previous years. (Zack Quaintance)

FEDERAL AGENCY TO INVEST $268M IN CONNECTING MINORITY COMMUNITIES


The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced this week that it will direct $268 million for a digital equity effort called the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program.

The program, which was created this year, intends to expand broadband access to minority communities by working with historically Black colleges or universities, tribal colleges or universities, minority-serving institutions and eligible minority-owned businesses.

Applications will be accepted until Dec. 1, 2021, with the expected announcement of awards slated for March 2022. NTIA expects awards to range between $500,000 to $3 million.

Eligible projects should expand broadband capacity, access or adoption; digital skills training; or understanding of broadband needs and best practices. More information on the program and on grant applications can be found on grants.gov. (Julia Edinger)

NEW JERSEY LAUNCHES WIRELESS DEVICE PROGRAM FOR DEAF, HARD OF HEARING RESIDENTS


The New Jersey Department of Human Services announced the launch of a pilot program that will provide wireless devices to deaf or hard of hearing residents of the state.

The devices — ranging from tablets to smartphones — will be free of charge for eligible applicants in order to enable them to access important information, resources and services offered through online platforms, ranging from telehealth services to emergency information. Supply is limited by available funding.

The program was made possible through the recently signed state budget, which included an increase in funding for deaf and hard of hearing individuals.

The Human Services Division of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing is administering the program. (Julia Edinger)
Associate editor for Government Technology magazine
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.