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What’s New in Civic Tech: National Day of Civic Hacking

Plus, Los Angeles hosts a Shark Tank-style pitch contest for startups with a $25,000 prize, and IBM partners with United Nations Human Rights for a coding challenge aimed at mitigating the impact of global disasters.

The biggest day of the year for civic technologists, the National Day of Civic Hacking, is Saturday, Sept. 21, and, as such, affiliated groups across the country are preparing their events.

The National Day of Civic Hacking, simply put, is a day in which civic technologists and others interested in serving their communities come together in the service of tech projects aimed at doing just that. This is the seventh year for the event, which is organized in large part by the national nonpartisan and nonprofit civic tech group Code for America (CfA). This year, CfA has once again convened its many member brigades in the service of the National Day of Civic Hacking.

It has also picked a general subject area for the groups to take on problems within: civic action for justice. To help facilitate projects, CfA’s brigade network has identified three potential starting points for participants.

The first is mapping out the record clearance project from the user’s perspective. With many jurisdictions doing things like decriminalizing marijuana, there have become new opportunities for record clearance. The idea here is to be centered on the user’s experience seeking conviction relief from government agencies.

Next, the brigade network suggests developing a services usability scorecard for evaluating the accessibility of the expungement process and policies in states. Finally, they also recommend creating a user-friendly know your rights website, complete with digital resources for those who have criminal convictions on their records.

Events for the day, of course, vary by region and jurisdiction. Those interested in finding an event in their own communities can start by checking here.

Los Angeles Hosts ‘Shark Tank’-Style Pitch Contest for Startups with $25K Prize

Los Angeles and Goren Holm Ventures have teamed up to host a pilot project competition for blockchain technology startups, complete with a pair of $25,000 prizes.

The contest is slated to take place Oct. 15 at the Los Angeles Convention Center during the blockchain investment conference CIS, and it’s a pitch contest in the spirit of the popular television show Shark Tank. The participating public agencies are the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office of Budget and Innovation, as well as the city’s Information Technology Agency. 

The winning team will get a minimum of a $25,000 investment offer from Goren Holm Ventures, as well as a $25,000 pilot project with Los Angeles, the lone caveat being that the project use blockchain tech to address one or more important initiatives.

Eligible project areas include environmental sustainability, online voting platforms, and secure resident IDs. Judges for the competition include billionaire investor Tim Draper, and others that are yet to be announced.

In a press release announcing the event, organizers noted that Los Angeles CIO Ted Ross will be a speaker at CIS, and that the hope is that the event will help establish the city as one of the first to leverage blockchain for innovative public benefits. 

Those interested in participating can submit an application here.

IBM Hosts Call for Code Challenge Aimed at Mitigating Global Disasters

IBM has announced five top finalists for its 2019 Call for Code Global Challenge, which is an initiative that invites developers to create open source applications to tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges.

The finalists were announced this week by the challenge’s founder, David Clark Cause. This is the second year for the event, which is focused now on finding ways to help mitigate the effects of natural disasters, as well as to help communities better prepare and respond when disasters do strike. In a press release announcing the five finalists, organizers noted, “More than 180,000 independent and enterprise developers, data scientists, activists, and students from 165 nations took part in this year’s challenge.”

Participating teams used Weather Company data and open source-powered tech — including sponsor products like IBM Cloud, IBM Watson, and IBM Blockchain — to build more than 5,000 applications, many of which were designed to improve access to vital info for first responders and health practitioners that help survivors after disasters.  

Call for Code Global Challenge is ultimately a $30 million, five-year project made possible by its charitable partner, United Nations Human Rights, and housed within IBM’s Code and Response program. 

More information about the challenge can be found here, and a list of the top five finalists is as follows: AsTeR from Europe, Healios from North America, Prometeo from Europe, Rove from North America, and Sparrow Platform from Asia Pacific. 

The final global winner will be chosen by a prestigious group that includes former President Bill Clinton.

Associate editor for Government Technology magazine.