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What's New in Civic Tech: Grants Now Available Through Seattle's Technology Matching Fund

Plus, Los Angeles seeks participants for its 2018 DataLA Summer Academy; Washington, D.C., vastly expands its number of open data sets; and Seward County, Neb., works to attract public-private investments for broadband infrastructure.

Seattle’s Technology Matching Fund is now open for applications from community and nonprofit groups for grants of up to $50,000 in service of work that improves digital equity.

The city is seeking “applications for projects that increase access to free or low-cost broadband, empower residents with digital literacy skills, and ensure affordable, available and sufficient devices and technical support,” officials announced in a press release. City funds for these grants are to be matched by contributions from the community, which could come in the form of volunteer labor, materials, professional services or return funding.

Three workshops have been set up to help those who are interested in applying. The workshops, which are free, aim to provide an overview of the grant program, to explain the application process, and to guide attendees as they compile a successful application. The classes, however, are not required for applicants, although first-time participants are encouraged to attend.

The classes will be offered in Seattle at the following dates and locations:

  • Monday, March 26: 2:30 – 4 p.m. at 2100 Building, 2100 24th Ave South, 98144
  • Thursday, March 29: 6 – 7:30 p.m. at Neighborhood House High Point, 6400 Sylvan Way SW, 98126
  • Saturday, March 31: 10 – 11:30 a.m. Phinney Center, 6532 Phinney Ave. N., 98103
This marks the 21st consecutive year for the fund, which likely ranks as one of the longest-running digital inclusion efforts in the country. This year, Seattle also upped its financial contribution for the program when its city council voted to award as much as $430,000 through it. Officials have estimated that this year the fund will help more than 6,000 residents of underserved or underrepresented communities in Seattle gain access to technology and digital skills.

Los Angeles seeks participants for its 2018 DataLA Summer Academy

Los Angeles is seeking participants for its 2018 DataLA Summer Academy, a 12-week internship program that gives participants first-hand experience with the city working in analytics, app development and communications out of city hall.

Successful applicants for the program would work with the Mayor’s Data Team, which is actively engaged in implementing a civic data strategy that is among the most successful and influential by any local government in the country. Interns with the team will work directly with city departments to support innovative strategies and data-driven methods for addressing ongoing issues in Los Angeles. In a medium post announcing the Summer Academy, now in its second year, coordinators wrote that work would focus on “policy topics ranging from sustainability to public safety.”

Positions are available in three areas: analytics and data science; app development and UI/UX (user interface/user experience); and storytelling, which involves drafting data stories that can be shared through the city’s communication channels.  

The application deadline for the program is April 8, and lists of minimum and preferred qualifications are available here.

Successful applications will also have the opportunity to work with the city’s GeoHub platform, which since it was first launched in 2016 has in particular drawn praise and admiration from throughout the wider gov tech sector.

Washington, D.C., Office of the Chief Technology Officer publishes annual report on open data

The Washington, D.C., Office of the Chief Technology Officer has published its annual report on open data as well as its first enterprise data set inventory and report.

The enterprise data set inventory lists 79 local government agencies in the nation’s capital record 1,640 enterprise data sets. This, officials report, is nearly 80 percent of the 99 agencies that were asked to report, which is certainly a high number for interagency collaboration. As part of this report, all 69 mayoral agencies worked with the CTO’s office to identify and record enterprise data sets, while only 10 of the city’s 30 independent agencies participated.

There is myriad information about open data in Washington, D.C., now available online as part of the city’s annual data report, and interested parties can also see the analysis methods via the District’s Enterprise Dataset Inventory GitHub report.

This is all a lot to take in, but what’s most striking is the number of data sets that D.C. has, the percentage of which have been made open and the categorizations they fall into. All of that information is available via the report in easy-to-read graphs. There is also a section of lists that make it easy to see progress that has been made from fiscal year 2017 to fiscal year 2018, specifically how many new data layers have been published in those periods.

Transparency advocacy group Sunlight Foundation praised the publication in a tweet, specifically noting that it had pushed for an open by default data policy, and that tech leadership had not only delivered but displayed information about the policy prominently on the report.

Seward County, Neb., works to attract public-private investments in broadband infrastructure

Seward County, Neb., a rural area west of Lincoln, Neb., that is home to roughly 17,000 residents, is leveraging public-private partnerships to attract investments in broadband infrastructure.

A blog published by the Nebraska Information Technology Commission detailed the work this month, quoting a number of local stakeholders that recognize the importance of fiber to communities. In fact, Jonathan Jank, president and CEO of the Seward County Chamber and Development Partnership, described fiber-optic service as a fifth utility, equating it to sewer, water, electric and natural gas. Jank also noted that availability of high-speed connections is a valuable tool in attracting companies to the area.

The blog details a series of governmental options for raising money to bolster infrastructure in the service of economic development, as well as ongoing efforts in Seward County to work with providers to explore more ways to connect residents of rural communities. This is a pressing issue in Nebraska, as it is in many states with extensive rural areas.

In fact, even states with exceedingly healthy tech ecosystems in their cities often struggle to connect their rural areas, with California, Colorado and Oregon all having explored legislative measures to remedy such gaps.

Colorado, for example, is currently looking to fill a GIS technician position that would be aimed in part at helping to provide an ongoing assessment of broadband deployment throughout the state

In the Nebraska blog, Jank offers advice for any community interested in improving connection speeds, saying, “If you are not engaging your chamber of commerce and your economic development organizations in these broadband conversations, you should be. This is critical to the economic vitality of our state and so I would just make that general encouragement to talk with those professionals in and around your community.”

Associate editor for Government Technology magazine.