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What's New in Civic Tech: U.S. Drops in Worldwide Open Data Rankings

Plus, Boston mayor hosts city’s first innovation courtyard festival, and NYC Civic Hall adds a new managing director.

What's New in Civic Tech takes a look at highlights and recent happenings in the world of civic technology.

U.S. Drops in Worldwide Open Data Rankings

The United States has fallen from second to fourth this year in a ranking of publishing and open data use for accountability, innovation and social impact, as determined by the Open Data Barometer, a creation of the World Wide Web Foundation.

This year’s info was released through the site on May 23, marking the fourth edition of the barometer. It measures how the governments of 115 countries used open data for the aforementioned reasons in 2016. While the United States’ overall score of 82 was up ever so slightly from last year’s tally of 81.89, the nation’s ranking for readiness dropped from 97 to 96, and its implementation total went from 76 to 71.

The United Kingdom is ranked No.1 by the barometer, while Canada is second and France third. The 115 countries covered this year mark a 25 percent increase of the last edition. Israel, Kenya, Korea and Mexico were also cited as open data leaders in their respective parts of the world.

In a report accompanying the barometer, researchers note that collectively, the world leaves much to be desired in the realm of open data. The authors set out three beliefs: Open data must be a right for everyone; open data must be relevant to what people need; and open data must be easily usable by people.

“The findings from the fourth edition of the Open Data Barometer show that while some governments are advancing towards these aims, open data remains the exception, not the rule,” the researchers wrote.

Boston Mayor Hosts Innovation Courtyard Festival

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh hosted on Wednesday May 31 the city’s first Courtyard Festival, which was a one-night speaker event that brought together members of the business community to discuss and explore how startups and new tech will shape the city’s future.

The event, held in partnership with Boston’s Chamber of Commerce, featured speakers on an array of topics, including robotics, mobility, agriculture, sports innovation and creative work. A unifying theme among each was ways in which Boston had been essential to their stories. The speakers were:

  • Tim Wakefield, Red Sox Foundation
  • Isaiah Kacyvenski, Angela Ruggerio, Joshua Walker, managing directors, Sports Innovation Lab
  • Assaf Biderman, founder, Superpedestrian
  • Dr. Cynthia Breazeal, founder and CTO, Jibo
  • Brad McNamara, co-founder and CEO, Freight Farms
  • Rica Elysee, founder and CEO, BeautyLynk
  • Pat Petitti, co-founder and co-CEO, Catalant
The event was in keeping with Boston’s commitment to fostering tech to improve its community. One emphasis of the night was ways the city works to foster the success of entrepreneurs and startups. To this end, the event hosted a startup showcase with 18 participants.  

NYC Civic Hall Adds New Managing Director

New York City’s Civic Hall, a major collaboration center for tech and civic innovators, has named Jessica Lawrence Quinn as its managing director, a new position.

In this capacity, Quinn will oversee Civic Hall’s day-to-day operations and programming as it prepares to become the anchor tenant of the Union Square Tech Hub, a city-backed project that could bring an estimated 600 tech jobs to Manhattan. Quinn is a veteran of the nonprofit world, and she previously ran the NY Tech Meetup, which became the NY Tech Alliance after merging a year ago with the New York Technology Council. Tech Alliance and Civic Hall are related groups, both of which are overseen by Andrew Rasiej, Civic Hall’s founder and CEO.

It’s an exciting time for Civic Hall, owing to its imminent relocation into such a prominent public tech space. Mayor Bill de Blasio first announced plans for the Union Square project in February, calling the hub the front-door for tech in New York City.

"People searching for jobs, training or the resources to start a company will have a place to come to connect and get support," he said in a release at the time. "No other city in the nation has anything like it. It represents this city’s commitment to a strong and inclusive tech ecosystem.”

Associate editor for Government Technology magazine