Currently browsing: Civic Tech

CHIdeas – the City of Chicago’s new online community forum


The city of Chicago has released a new tool, CHIdeas, to help generate new ideas to help improve the city. Currently, the city is looking for feedback on four ideas: supporting small businesses, emergency preparedness, reading, and a City Hall photo collage.

This site is an online platform to provide opportunities for government and citizens to work together by connecting civic challenges to community problem-solvers. We believe the best way to tackle challenges that affect the community is with the community. By using a platform that allows members of the community to contribute from their own homes and on their own schedules, we believe that we will be able to engage a broader audience. And with this broader audience comes a broader range of ideas, solutions and participation. So, who should participate on this site? You! We want your ideas, your feedback, your comments and your point of view. Together, we can build a better community!

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More Chicago Open Data


There’s a new dataset on Chicago’s open data portal - roadway construction moratoriums – streets that CANNOT have any construction on them. From the city:

Moratoriums are established by the Department of Transportation as a method of protecting reconstructed or repaved roadways within the boundaries of the city. By having access to this Moratorium list in advance, contractors or utilities with projects that require excavation of roadways can more effectively plan and review conflicts that will be encountered.

Check out the dataset here:

Lessons from Philadelphia’s open data progress


Sunlight Foundation has a piece on lessons learned from Philadelphia’s open data policy, including the demand vs. cost of public data sets. It’s worth a read -

As open data efforts mature around the country, more places with open data policies are taking the time to reflect on their progress and plan for the future.

Philadelphia, one of the first dozen cities in the country to have an open data policy, is providing an example of what this reflection and planning can look like. The city’s Open Data Team recently released a Strategic Plan and Open Data Census, highlighting lessons from the first two years of its open data program and looking at how to make improvements going forward. Philadelphia’s efforts can help provide lessons to other places looking for ways to be more transparent about the process of opening up data.

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Celebrating The 2015 Knight-Mozilla Fellows


Congratulations to the 2015 OpenNews Knight-Mozilla Fellows!

We are excited to introduce you to our 2015 Knight-Mozilla Fellows. This cohort comes from around the world, from a diversity of backgrounds and experiences, to spend 10 months hacking the news in some of the best newsrooms around. Meet them now.

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The 5 largest cities in America all have open data policies


As EveryBlock prepares to launch in Houston, the city recently got some attention for implementing an open data policy. There’s a great piece on the Sunlight Foundation website on the policy.

New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago — the three largest cities in the country — and Philadelphia — the fifth-largest city — all had open data policies by the end of 2013. Now, Houston — the fourth-largest city — has joined those ranks on Sept. 18 with an open data policy signed by the mayor.

Houston already has an open data portal with more than 160 datasets spanning a range of topics. The policy aims to help ensure that the city’s more than 2.1 million residents receive timely access to usable data being released online through that portal.

How does Houston’s policy stack up to best practices?

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Making Civic Hacking More Inclusive


This past summer, two Philadelphia coding groups teamed up to offer a summer civic tech fellowship aimed to help increase the number of women in the open source developer community – to successful results.

LeeAnn Kinney works full-time as a developer for a home health care organization in Philadelphia. She has a lot of front end developer skills, but until recently she felt uncomfortable at tech community events. That all changed when she became a fellow in a unique program called “Summer of Open Source” — a Girl Develop It(GDI) and Code for Philly partnership.

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Knight Cities Challenge now accepting ideas


What’s your best idea to make cities more successful? How can cities spur talent, opportunity and engagement? The Knight Cities Challenge is open for submissions through November 14th.

The Knight Cities Challenge seeks new ideas from innovators – activists, designers, artists, planning professionals, hackers, architects, city officials, companies, educators, nonprofits, entrepreneurs, block captains, social workers, neighbors, anyone – who will take hold of the future of our cities.

From a pool of $5 million we’re awarding grants at the city, neighborhood and block levels – and all sizes in between. No project is too small - so long as the idea is big.

We are looking for fresh ideas that focus on one or more of these three key drivers of city success: attracting and retaining talented people, expanding economic opportunity, and creating a culture of civic engagement.

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The CUTGroup Book


Our partners at the Smart Chicago Collaborative have released a website and book, The CUTGroup Book, detailing the findings of their Civic User Testing Group, a set of regular Chicago residents who get paid to test civic apps.

The book includes a how-to on civic tech engagement, examples of tools and methods for app testing, and real-life examples.

You can download a PDF of the book for free or order it as a real book on Amazon. Also read about the contributions of dozens of people who made it happen.

CUTGroup_Cover-660x1024, the next stage in open data


A new open-source product called is doing some cool stuff with open data accessibility. The project is funded by the National Science Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation.

Plenario is designed to take us from “spreadsheets on the web”1 to truly smart open data. This rests on two fundamental breakthroughs:

1)  Allow users to assemble and download data from multiple, independent data sources, such as two different municipal data portals, or the federal government and a privately curated dataset.

2)  Unite all datasets along a single spatial and temporal index, making it possible to do complex aggregations with one query.

With these advances, Plenario allows users to study regions over specified time periods using all relevant data, regardless of original source, and represent the data as a single time series. By providing a single, centralized hub for open data, the Plenario platform enables urban scientists to ask the right questions with as few constraints as possible.

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The Weather Company and Emergency Alerts


Interesting piece from GovTech on The Weather Company and their new entry into the emergency alert business – allowing local emergency managers to utilize local, targeted information and publish that information quickly across multiple platforms.

The Weather Company, best known for The Weather Channel and, is getting into the emergency alert business — a natural fit given the company’s focus and market saturation.

Using its large-scale distribution and weather expertise, the company is, in partnership with local officials, building a localized alerting platform for state, local and private authorities to manage and distribute emergency alerts via The Weather Channel properties and existing local distribution points.

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