What’s New in Civic Tech: New Legislation in Connecticut Bolsters State’s Open Data Efforts

Plus, Albuquerque, N.M., launches new app for questions about recycling, San Francisco creates a data homage to former Mayor Ed Lee, California hosts safe drinking water challenge, and a rundown of available positions for civic technologists.

During Connecticut’s recently concluded legislative session, lawmakers approved a plan to bolster the state’s commitment to data efforts.

These plans were initiated by an executive order from Gov. Dannel Malloy issued four years ago, which the legislature recently codified through new legislation. This legislation establishes data requirements for the agencies in the executive branch while also empowering the state’s chief data officer to direct agencies on topics related to open data. It also now requires a biennial state data plan and the establishment of a Connecticut Data Analysis Technology Advisory Board.

The newly approved plan also contains a number of other steps that would make ongoing support and structure for Connecticut’s data effort law, including the position of chief data manager, which moving forward will be officially designated by the Office of Policy and Management. The new rules also require that same agency to receive annual data inventories from executive branch agencies as well as to continue operating Connecticut’s open data portal.

In addition, all the executive branch agencies will be required to pick one employee in their house to serve as their data officer, who will then be a point of contact for any related data inquiries. Non-executive branch agencies are now given the choice of complying with the open data provisions on the website. Finally, the legislation creates a 16-member Connecticut Data Analysis Technology Board to advice government on open data policy moving forward.

Albuquerque, N.M., Launches New App for Questions About Recycling

Albuquerque, N.M., has released a new app to help answer questions about recycling, send reminders and quiz residents on how much they know about recycling.

This app, dubbed Recycling Coach, is available for both iPhone and Android and has a pretty wide range of functions. Users can enter an item they’re thinking about recycling and learn whether it’s OK to go ahead and recycle it. They can also create a personalized recycling calendar complete with reminders related, of course, to recycling. And they can set up their Google Assistants or Amazon Alexas so that they can verbally ask whether it’s OK to recycle certain items.

Finally, the app has a quiz so that users can find out what type of recycler they are, followed by more info about recycling collection requirements and a blog that teaches readers how to become better recyclers.

San Francisco Creates Data Homage to Mayor Ed Lee

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee passed away late last year while he was still holding office at the age of 65.

Lee, who was San Francisco’s first Asian-American mayor, was a popular leader widely lauded for his role in helping to make the city a leader in government technology and data-driven decision-making. Now the city has created a data homage to Mayor Lee. Essentially, the tribute uses empirical data to help visualize the many ways in which Lee improved life in the city.

Accomplishments detailed via the online homage include building more than 20,000 new housing units in a city that, like the rest of California, is in the midst of a major housing crisis, as well as creating or rehabilitating 6,184 housing units since 2014, and dropping unemployment in the city from 8.9 percent to 3 percent, which is a 37-year record.

More nuanced data on the homage also goes on to show that  under Lee’s watch it came to pass that all San Francisco residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park, there are 41 new miles of bike lanes, 283 new open data sets have been published in the last four years and 25 neighborhoods have benefited from economic investment.

California Hosts Safe Drinking Water Data Challenge, Expands State Data Portal

As California prepares to host a safe drinking water data challenge next month, the state has also expanded its open data portal to include new sets from two additional public agencies.

The Safe Drinking Water Challenge is set to launch on June 26 with an event in San Francisco. Interested parties can RSVP here. A coordinated effort between a number of community groups and state agencies, this event is aimed at exploring data’s potential to help foster understanding of community access to safe drinking water, as well as to anticipate vulnerabilities and identify solutions. California is currently publishing new water and ecosystem information in an open data format, and as such, this challenge gives participants a chance to engage with that portal, submit feedback or give advice and suggestions.

California has also recently announced that its data portal now features data sets from its health and human services agency and its natural resources secretary. In a press release, the state noted that there are now more than 1,000 data sets available through data.ca.gov.

Available Positions for Civic-Minded Technologists

It appears to be a good time right now for civic-minded technologists who are searching for work, with several prominent positions currently available.

Here’s a brief list:

Associate editor for Government Technology magazine