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What’s New in Civic Tech: New York Creates Commission on AI

Plus, Code for America adds a new Brigade in Eugene, Ore.; San Francisco Planning looks to hire a data and analytics manager; What Works Cities hosts a good governance forum next week; and more.

New York has created a temporary state commission aimed at investigating how best to regulate artificial intelligence, robotics and automation.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation to create the commission this week, which has been dubbed the New York State Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Automation Commission. The nascent group will look at the impacts these technologies are having with an eye toward figuring out how best to use and — if necessary — regulate them. 

Specifically, the commission will be looking at the following topics in relation to this technology: how it affects employment in the state, how it acquires or discloses an individual’s personal info, how it affects existing tech industries, how it might be used to better enhance public-sector services, and how it could potentially be used to break the law. 

AI, robotics and automation are pressing concerns to the public sector. For years, the technology has been discussed in terms of its impact on employment, especially in industrial areas where the use of automated technologies can lead to a loss of jobs. As the technology has accelerated, however, it has begun to have an impact on other sectors. Its uses in terms of processing, obtaining and sharing personal info is also something that privacy advocates and private citizens have begun to share misgivings over. 

"Artificial intelligence and automation are already having a profound impact across many industries and their influence keeps growing, so it's critical that we do everything in our power to understand their capabilities and potential pitfalls," Cuomo said in a press release. "This new commission will look closely at how these rapidly evolving technologies are functioning and report back on how we can optimize use to benefit New Yorkers and our economy."  

Another duty for the new commission is to study how these technologies are being used and regulated by other states. Ultimately, after meetings with key stakeholders and others involved with these technologies, the group is likely to make recommendations on how New York should proceed as a state.

Code for America Adds New Brigade in Eugene, Ore.

Code for America continues to add to its nationwide network of localized volunteer groups, the Code for America Brigades, with the most recent addition being in Eugene, Ore.

The national nonprofit and nonpartisan civic tech group added Open Eugene this month. Open Eugene joins its older brother — Code for PDX in Portland, Ore. — as the second brigade in the state. There are now 81 total brigades. A full map of the various chapters can be found here.

For the unfamiliar, the concept behind the Code for America brigades is a simple one: They are a national alliance of community groups made up of developers, designers and other members who want to make their areas better through the use of technology. They are, essentially, deputized and local versions of the Code for America national organization, benefiting from that group’s reach, expertise and structure. 

San Francisco Planning Looks to Hire Data and Analytics Manager

As a housing crisis continues to affect major California cities, the San Francisco Planning Department is looking to hire a new data and analytics manager, noting on Twitter that the position is one well-suited for an individual who cares about data-driven housing policy.

San Francisco Planning also shared more info about the job on its website, noting that “This position is essential to support the City’s goals for sustainability, equity, resiliency, and prosperity.” The job will entail being a leader for San Francisco Planning’s Data and Analytics Group, which is housed within the Citywide Division of the local government.

Officials are looking for someone with skills and a past track record with modern land use, urban analytics and instilling the value of data-driven decision-making to key stakeholders, a list that includes members of the community, partner agencies, and state or federal collaborators. Other more specific work will include leading the ongoing effort to drastically improve access to data analytical capacity by modernizing products, tools and workflows within the Land Use Information System.

In a broader sense, positions like this one show the ongoing spread of data-driven government within city halls across the country. These types of jobs are becoming increasingly embedded within departments, rather than remaining the domain of IT workers and the occasional innovation team. In fact, it is not hard to envision a future in which all departments in cities like San Francisco — from planning to public works to the police — have data and analytics teams who work alongside their other staff members every day.  

The full job announcement, as well as the mechanism to apply, can be found here.

Philadelphia Announces Recipients of StartupPHL Venture Grants

Philadelphia has announced the recipients for its StartupPHL Venture Grants for Underrepresented Founders, which will give between $5,000 and $25,000 each to 13 local tech companies. 

The StartupPHL initiative is the work of the city’s Department of Commerce and the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp., and it aims to support startup companies within the city. Within that is the StartupPHL Venture Program, which provides funding for tech or tech-enabled ventures that might not otherwise have access to traditional capital or founder networks. Here, the program is awarding 13 grants totalling $170,000, aiming to create new economic opportunities for underserved populations in the Philadelphia tech community.

Applicants are required to own businesses based in Philadelphia and to be involved with a tech-enabled venture. All told, there were 43 applications, with 13 grants going to 21 founders, 12 of whom are women and 17 of whom are people of color. A number of industries are represented within the recipient list, including retail, enterprise technology for procurement, social media, accounting, fashion, health care and more.

A list of recipients and the money they received can be found below:

  • Ask My Accountant — $10,000
  • BuildLAB Inc. — $15,000
  • Capture — $10,000
  • Crowds Inc. — $10,000
  • IF Lab  — $25,000
  • Invure — $5,000
  • NeuroFlow Inc. — $20,000
  • Raise the Barr — $10,000
  • STEM Lending Inc. — $10,000
  • Stimulus Inc.  — $20,000
  • Swirl Technologies Inc. — $10,000
  • TYP Social Media Co. — $15,000
  • Wearwell — $10,000

What Works Cities to Host Good Governance Forum

What Works Cities, which is perhaps the nation’s premier group for supporting data-driven decision-making in local government, will be hosting The Good Governance Forum next week in Philadelphia with S&P Global Ratings, a national financial services company.

The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, July 29 in Philadelphia at The Bellevue Hotel. The agenda includes a packed half-day of insights and instruction from What Works Cities experts, members of the Philadelphia local government, S&P advisers and more. 

The advertising for the event promises a “thought-provoking dialogue on governance, an issue at the forefront of public finance as fixed costs rise and emerging risks take hold.”

Interested parties can still reserve a spot via email.

Associate editor for Government Technology magazine.