About a year ago I was doing introductions in this segment at the Code for America Summit around some of the harder problems for government technology. I was introducing a number of speakers, most of them were civic startup founders. I found myself commenting that the first speaker was working in governmen… and then the next speaker actually had been a police officer. Then finally the third one too was a retired cop.
I joked, “So to build a successful civic startup do you have to have either had a badge or a gun?”
Now, about a year later, I’m thinking: maybe.
Maybe that was a kernel of truth in that quick quip.
New York’s bag of tech tools is jostling with 20 new apps.
The additions come by way of the NYC BigApps 2014, a civic tech competition that bills itself as the nation’s largest civic innovation challenge with $20,000 awarded to the top four winners. This month, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Economic Development Corporation announced the 20 finalists battling in four categories: live, learn, work and play. The apps are meant to remedy some of the Big Apple’s high priority needs. Specifically, these include economic mobility, education, health and support of the city’s urban environment.
Cities across the nation are under financial pressure. They lack the public funds to create more opportunity by investing in economic development, human capital and physical infrastructure. Private capital could go a long way towards meeting these investment needs. Too often, available private capital cannot be put to work in our cities because the mechanisms to attract and deploy capital are not in place. It’s as though private capital is an airplane, circling overhead, without the landing strip or the air traffic control needed to touch down safely. Even in a time of scarce public sector resources, there are things that city leaders can do to help put capital to work in their communities.
More than 100 digital engagement and open data managers from across government met with leaders in the private sector startup community August 7 at the White House for a summit on integrating our digital services with public participation to create more opportunities for innovation and tackle tougher challenges.
A major argument for democratic governance is that more citizen participation leads to better outcomes through an improved alignment between citizens’ preferences and policies. But how does that play out in practice? Looking at the effects of the introduction of electronic voting (EV) in Brazil, a paper by Thomas Fujiwara (Princeton) sheds light on this question. Entitled “Voting Technology, Political Responsiveness, and Infant Health: Evidence from Brazil” (2013), it is one of the best papers I’ve read when it comes to bringing together the issues of technology, participation and development outcomes.
If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area and woke up at to a 6.1 earthquake at 3:30 a.m. this morning, now would be a good time for citizens and local governments everywhere...