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What’s New in Civic Tech: Philly’s Innovation Fund Grants

Plus, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration establishes two new offices aimed at strengthening U.S. broadband, and the California Public Utilities Commission is investing in digital equity.

Philadelphia has announced the four winning projects for its spring 2021 Innovation Fund grant cycle.

Unveiled this month by the city in a blog post, the funds touch on a wide range of city departments and functions, including the library, the health department, the office of children and families, and more. The grant amounts for the four projects range from $3,500 to $7,500, and they all come from the city’s Innovation Fund, which is essentially an internal grant-making program largely funded by the Mayor’s Fund for Philadelphia. As always, the fund this year was organized by Philadelphia’s Innovation Management Team in the city’s Office of Innovation and Technology.

The idea behind these grants is to support pilot projects created by city employees with new and unique ideas. The fund prioritizes proposals that have never been tried in the city, offer something new for a given department, position Philadelphia to be the first jurisdiction to try something, leverage partnerships and prioritize equity.

As noted above, the Innovation Fund is largely funded by the city, but this year it has also expanded to receive its first private-sector contribution, that coming from Verizon. This is perhaps part of an upcycle in private-sector support of public tech and innovation work, with many companies offering added support after the pandemic emphasized the value of effective digitized local government services, as well as connectivity within the jurisdiction. (Zack Quaintance)


The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has announced the establishment of the Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth (OICG) and the Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives (OMBI).

The OICG will house all broadband activities and grant programs at NTIA, such as the Broadband Infrastructure Program, the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program and the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program.

Douglas Kinkoph, who has headed NTIA’s broadband program for over five years, will be charged with leading the OICG.

The OMBI, within the OICG, will fulfill requirements set out by the Connecting Minority Communities provisions of the Consolidated Appropriations Act. This office will be tasked with continuing NTIA’s plans to expand connectivity. (Julia Edinger)


The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has awarded a grant to the LA Digital Equity Action League (LA DEAL), via a partnership between lead applicant Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation and UNITE-LA.

The grant will help advance efforts for equitable broadband deployment in unserved and underserved parts of the region.

LA DEAL’s work will support CPUC’s Rural and Urban Regional Broadband Consortia Program. LA DEAL’s efforts under the grant will include working with stakeholders, acting as an intermediary between involved parties, pursuing broadband funding opportunities and prioritizing communities based on need.

Additionally, the LA DEAL consortium has task forces focused on making Internet-enabled devices, affordable Internet options and literacy training available to all individuals. (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.