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What's New in Civic Tech: Memphis, Tenn., Updates Data Hub

Plus, California is working to make its website better serve residents; San Antonio is planning a codeathon for veterans; the 2020 Civic Digital fellowship is now open for interest; and more.

Memphis, Tenn., has updated its data hub, launching an overhauled version of the platform, complete with performance dashboards, a data catalog and a guide to using the hub itself.

The new hub went live last month, with the city describing it as “a state-of-the-art data hub that the public can access 24/7.” The city also pointed to six main features for the new data website, many of which represent ongoing pieces of municipal gov tech work that are rapidly spreading in local government. The performance dashboard is chief among them, enabling users as it does to review city government metrics in a few different categories, including neighborhoods, good government, public safety, youth and jobs.

Data stories is another feature, and it aims to help residents and anyone else who visits the site understand the different ways in which the city is using data to improve the services it provides. Other new features are the ability to see what city projects are underway, access to a list of city assets, information about 311 requests being made throughout the city, and public safety tools such as mapping that lets users see the types and frequency of reported crime incidents in given areas. 

“The new site is intended to increase usability and resident engagement, and it builds on the mayor’s commitment to hold city government accountable for its performance,” Craig Hodge of the Office of Performance Management said in a press release. “Internally, the Data Hub is the foundation for how we continually use data to inform our decisions; having a platform to load and share data across divisions allows city leaders to break down silos and better work together to be ‘brilliant at the basics.’”

The last new functionality that bears mentioning here is the ability for users to submit suggestions for data sets they’d like to see included within the hub in the future. 

California Works to Make Its Website Better Serve Golden State Residents

California has announced a new effort to better serve residents, one that is primarily centered around reimagining the state’s homepage

Angelica B. Quirarte Arias, the digital engagement lead at the California Government Operations Agency, detailed the new effort as well as the reasons why it matters so much in a recent post on Medium. is the state’s official homepage,” Arias wrote. “But more important, it should be the place where the people of California go to get the information and services they need.”

The post noted this work is being done with the full support of the Governor’s Office as well as the leaders within the California Department of Technology, and that the ambitions for what it can accomplish are high, adding, “This is not business as usual.”

The first step will be creating an alpha for the new site, one that developers plan to build by researching what California’s needs are and subsequently learning from that research.

“It’s an approach that sounds like common sense," Arias wrote in the announcement. "But for government, it is relatively new and often hard to accomplish.”

As Arias notes, for many years government work was done with the needs of the government entities in mind. A shift in the last decade, however, has seen government start to execute projects with the needs of the user as the starting point, tapping human-centric design techniques to accomplish this.

The forthcoming work in California will also be done by building upon best practices and forging partnerships with others who have used it within the space, specifically with the national civic tech nonprofit Code for America and Public Digital, an organization whose partners helped found the United Kingdom Digital Service that is oft-cited as a trailblazing agency and a vast inspiration for work in user-centered gov tech.

As for a timeline, the work is still young, with developers currently in the process of assembling the team they will need to execute the vision. As such, they are looking to contract or hire a technical lead, delivery manager, user researcher, content designer and a product designer.

Interested parties can learn more about the potential employment opportunities here.

San Antonio to Host Veterans Codeathon

As the civic tech movement nationwide has matured and settled in, hackathons and similar events have changed too, with some involving things like cash prizes or potential government contracts while many others focus on specific challenges within individual communities. 

This weekend, San Antonio is hosting an event that very much fits into that latter group. It’s called the Veterans Codeathon, and as the name implies, it aims to encourage technologists and others to work on projects that can improve the lives of veterans. The event is set to launch this weekend in the South Texas city, representing a joint collaboration between the local groups Geekdom and Codeup, as well as the city’s CivTechSA. The event will be taking place at the Geekdom Event Center. 

There will be five challenges presented to the participants, including one to help connect veterans with organizations designed to help them, another to fight homelessness among veterans, and more. 

Registration is still open here.

2020 Civic Digital Fellowship Is Now Open for Interest

The Civic Digital Fellowship, which gives students an opportunity to use innovation skills by tackling challenges within the federal government, will open for this year’s applicants soon. In the meantime, organizers have posted this year’s interest form.

This is a unique opportunity in civic tech, one that gives participants the chance to use their skills and gain valuable experience at the highest level of gov tech work. Fellows in the program receive a $4,000 minimum stipend, as well as housing and cost of transportation to and from Washington, D.C. The program runs for 10 weeks, starting in early June and ending in mid-August. 

Fellows must be U.S. citizens as required by federal hiring regulations, and they must also be enrolled in an accredited higher education institution, with a projected graduation of no earlier than winter 2019. 

Associate editor for Government Technology magazine.