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What's New in Civic Tech: Meet MetroLab's Next Director

Plus, Missouri names a new director for the state's Office of Broadband Development, a grant in the San Francisco area aims to expand digital skills training for incarcerated individuals, and more.

MetroLab Summit
The MetroLab Network — which facilitates cooperation between cities and higher education on tech projects internationally — has named Kate Garman Burns as its next executive director, effective Jan. 31.

Garman Burns comes to MetroLab from Cityfi, a consultancy firm that works on innovation in urban areas. With that group, she helped to develop policy and frameworks related to data governance, future of work, the gig economy and privacy issues. One of her accomplishments with Cityfi was developing a city cohort plan that included budget officers, public works and innovation leaders working on budget resiliency. That sort of collaborative effort is foundational to the work of MetroLab as well.

She also has experience within local government. Prior to working with Cityfi, she worked as Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan's technology and policy adviser, with a focus on data-informed policymaking as it relates to city performance and innovation. Garman Burns also has experience working as an innovation policy adviser for the mayor of Kansas City, Mo.

Garman Burns succeeds former MetroLab executive director, Ben Levine, and more recently, interim executive director, Kim Lucas.

We are thrilled that Kate is coming on board as executive director of MetroLab Network," said Bill Fulton, MetroLab Network's board chair in a statement. "In her previous roles, she’s been a part of the broader MLN family, and we are looking forward to working with her to take the organization to the next level.” (Zack Quaintance)

DIRECTOR OF MISSOURI OFFICE OF BROADBAND DEVELOPMENT NAMED


BJ Tanksley was named the new director for the Office of Broadband Development this week by the Missouri Department of Economic Development. In this role, he will lead the state’s plans to invest over $400 million in broadband expansion, which are to be considered by the Missouri General Assembly this year.

Tanksley brings experience in both the public and private sector to this position. Most recently, he was the director of state and local legislative affairs for Missouri Farm Bureau. He has also worked for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Tanksley has a degree in political science from Southeast Missouri State University.

The Office of Broadband Development was established in 2018. Since then, it has administered the state’s first broadband grant program, which has awarded over $3 million in grants. The office has also led other efforts with the governor to invest in broadband and keep citizens connected during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Julia Edinger)

GRANT SUPPORTS DIGITAL SKILLS TRAINING FOR INCARCERATED INDIVIDUALS


A $2 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will support a collaboration between the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) and the American Library Association (ALA) to expand services for incarcerated individuals, including digital literacy trainings, an interactive map and more.

The Expanding Information Access for Incarcerated People initiative will be co-led by the ALA and a team at SFPL. The digital literacy trainings, which aim to support people in their re-entry process after incarceration, are going to be piloted as part of this project. Another part is the creation of a yearlong virtual training series and an interactive map that will help individuals who are incarcerated locate library services. The project will also include a comprehensive survey of the current models for library services for individuals in jails and prisons — as well as an effort to revise outdated standards.

The project aims to improve and expand the library services available for individuals who are incarcerated at both a local and national level. It will begin in the coming months following the board of supervisors' approval.

“Research shows that increasing the literacy rates and strengthening the library and information access opportunities for detained and formerly detained individuals often correlates to successful rehabilitation and re-entry,” said Tracie D. Hall, the ALA’s executive director, in the announcement. (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.