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What’s New in Civic Tech: South Bend, Ind., Plans to Build New Tech Center

Plus, the University of Wisconsin-Madison debuts a neighborhood map to help inform medical decision-making; San Francisco releases its annual open data inventory; and the Startup in Residence Program extends its application deadline.

South Bend, Ind., has been working for some time to transform itself into a technology hub, and now the city has announced plans to develop a $2.7 million center aimed at solving problems and improving efficiency in both the public and private sectors, according to local news reports.

Dubbed the Technology Resource Center, the facility will seek to convene actors in the community who have the tools to work with data. The idea is to help bring together collaborative projects between entities from disparate areas, including education, the private sector, government and the nonprofit world.

The money to build the center was approved by the city’s redevelopment commission.

The space will also serve as a meeting area for tech workshops and other related meetings. City officials have said that plans call for the center, which is in the early stages of development, to be roughly 12,500 square feet, and the hope is to finalize plans by the end of the summer with an eye toward opening it in early 2019.

South Bend is in the midst of somewhat of a tech renaissance, transitioning from a long-struggling former manufacturing hub to a viable player in the modern global economy. The city has done so through a mix of public-private cooperation and academic partnerships, with Mayor Pete Buttigieg receiving national attention for leading the efforts.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Debuts Neighborhood Map to Inform Medical Decisions

The University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health has developed an interactive map that contains neighborhood-level open data about socio-economic factors to help better inform medical decisions.

The university recently announced the map, which has been dubbed The Neighborhood Atlas, on its website, noting that the central goal is to help “quantify the degree of disadvantage in a given area — a factor increasingly viewed as critical to assessing health disparities and effective interventions.” 

The example the developers gave was a doctor who gives a diabetic patient an insulin prescription, forgetting to subsequently ask if that patient has a refrigerator to store the medicine in. If, however, the doctor could look at the map and see that the patient lives in a neighborhood where poor housing conditions are common, that knowledge can help to inform the conversation the doctor has with the patient, potentially preventing the insulin from spoiling.

This new map is based on the Area Deprivation Index (ADI), which was created by the U.S. Health Resources and Service Administration some years ago. The difference, however, is that the earlier map depicted larger geographical areas based on census data. The Neighborhood Atlas features a modernized ADI that goes down to the granular neighborhood level by drawing information based on ZIP codes.

As with many data visualization efforts nationwide, the movement to create open data resources that can improve health in communities continues to develop. One rapidly spreading use is to combat the opioid epidemic, both through awareness by visualizing related deaths and by helping reduce the amount of unaccounted-for narcotics by showing locations for unused medicine disposal.

San Francisco Releases Annual Open Data Inventory

San Francisco has released its annual open data inventory.

Compiled by the city’s open data coordinators, the city’s open data portal describes the inventory as a list of data maintained by local government departments, noting that the inventory will be used throughout the year to supplement San Francisco’s department publishing plans, thereby tracking progress toward goals.

The annual collection and publication of San Francisco’s open data is mandated by the city’s administrative code.

Startup in Residence Extends Application Deadline

The Startup in Residence program (STiR) has extended its deadline for applications until Friday, July 13.

STiR aims to help private companies better work with local government agencies to help solve municipal problems, in the process helping them take their companies into new markets. The application deadline has been extended for interested local governments.

STiR was originally started in 2014 by San Francisco, taking place in its first year exclusively in that city. It was then extended to other nearby markets in California, before being taken nationwide in 2017, taking hold in 12 jurisdictions. Organizers have said their next goal is to expand STiR to as many as 100 cities.

Associate editor for Government Technology magazine.