IE 11 Not Supported

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

What’s New in Civic Tech: NYC Looks to Fill Two Data-Related Leadership Positions

Plus, Louisville, Ky., hosts its first internal hackathon, Peoria, Ill., hosts its first ever hackathon period, and 30 jurisdictions join a nonprofit aimed at increasing connectivity rates inside HUD housing.

A pair of agencies in New York City are searching for applicants to fill data-related leadership positions.

Both of these positions involve overseeing a wide range of work conducted by teams of data scientists, with the ultimate goal of creating platforms and other products that face the public. The NYC Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications is looking for a chief analytics officer for the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics, while the NYC Department of City Planning is looking for a director of enterprise data management.

That first position is the broader of the two, as the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics is charged with aggregating, analyzing and conveying data from the many agencies within New York City, as well as from external sources, always with the aim of executing city priorities. The list of what this position does touches nearly every urban issue faced by the country’s largest city, including public safety, infrastructure, social services and quality of life.

The job with the department of city planning, meanwhile, is a bit more focused, working to support that particular agency’s technology footprint within all five of New York’s boroughs, as well as enhance workflow applications and existing databases for better analytics and decision making. 

Louisville, Ky., Hosts Its First Internal Hackathon

There are a lot of variations on hackathons, with the baseline being an event that generally lasts several days and brings together coders in one place to collaborate. There is an increasingly diverse pool of ideas on the best ways to conduct hackathons, with some jurisdictions working to evolve the practice.

Aiming for a more productive variation of the standard hackathon model, Louisville, Ky., recently hosted one that involved only coders, developers and staffers who already work within city government. The event, which organizers detailed in a Medium post, brought together Louisville’s internal data governance group, as well as employees from across city agencies, including police, parking, air pollution, public works, budget and health.

The event used data from the Waze Connected Citizens program, which Louisville recently became the fifth city in the country to join. This program gives city governments access to data from millions of Waze users, including hourly reports on traffic, road hazards, road conditions and weather.

The internal hackathon saw 45 participants work together to use this data and ultimately pitch 15 projects, which organizers then narrowed to six.

“We feel internal hackathons are an effective way to train employees on new tools, get them using new data, create collaboration between departments, and most importantly institutionalize innovation,” organizers wrote.

While internal hackathons are not an entirely new concept — they’ve been conducted in jurisdictions like Alameda County, Calif. — this marks the first for Louisville, and organizers say they are currently working to create a hackathon kit for future internal use.

Peoria, Ill., Hosts City’s First Hackathon

Continuing the theme of first hackathons, Peoria, Ill., the largest city in that state outside of the greater Chicagoland area, recently hosted its own first hackathon event.

While the younger generation likely won’t remember this, the question “Will it play in Peoria?” was once a figure of speech used across the country to ask if a concept, product or idea would appeal to mainstream Americans, given that Peoria was viewed as a perfect reflection of average American tastes. It would seem hackathons do, in fact, play in Peoria, with organizers reporting that the city’s first was a success.

The event took place Saturday, Aug. 12, and it was coordinated by Peoria’s innovation team, which is part of a larger program made possible by Bloomberg Philanthropies. It brought together 47 developers for a 10-hour session, which did not yield any final products. I-Team project manager Peter Kobak, however, told a local public radio station that he still considered the event a success.

He went on to say that the hackathon did produce a number of prototypes and concepts that could help the local government get closer to its goal of making the city’s public data more open and accessible, in spite of Peoria’s limited resources. Moving forward, the city may decide to partner with some of the developers from the hackathon to continue working on a project that was started there.

In addition to the hackathon, Peoria is also currently holding an open data challenge related to balancing the city budget.

30 Jurisdictions Join Cohort to Bolster Digital Equity for Public Housing Residents 

ConnectHome Nation, a nonprofit organization that works to help improve digital literacy and connectivity for residents of public housing, has announced its first cohort of 30, which includes partner jurisdictions from across the United States.

ConnectHome Nation, which has a stated goal to expand its list to 100 communities by 2020, picked a diverse group of public agencies, ranging from Rhode Island Housing to the Housing Authority of San Joaquin, Calif. This cohort is rooted in public-private partnership, and it will give participants access to ConnectHome’s resources, which include monthly webinars, mentorships, and a platform that allows for sharing of questions, connections and data.

ConnectHome Nation is one of a growing number of non-profit groups aimed at working within local governments to address the issue of digital equity, which is the idea that all citizens have equal access to things like high-speed Internet and digital literacy. Advocates say this issue stands to become increasingly prevalent, and that governments that do not help ensure digital inclusion run the risks of having whole populations that suffer from less access to employment, health-care and education opportunities.

In fact, 2017 has been a banner year for public-private partnerships in this arena, with another nonprofit group, the Ohio-based National Digital Inclusion Alliance, hosting a slate of activities nationwide as part of its first ever digital inclusion week. What sets ConnectHome Nation apart is that its specific focus is on fostering digital equity among residents of public housing. Some cities, such as Austin, have prioritized collaboration between civic technologists and public housing authorities, saying that digital inclusion is an effective way to help citizens transition from public housing to residences of their own.

What’s New in Civic Dog Tech: Austin Creates Map of Off-Leash Areas in City

Another city government has thrown a bone (sorry) to the growing arena of civic dog tech, which has previously included data maps showing the most common dog names in cities from New York to Anchorage, Alaska. This time, it’s Austin, Texas, and its new platform is a visualized data map that shows places in the city where dog owners can let their furry friends frolic off-leash

Associate editor for Government Technology magazine