Civic Tech Roundup: October 12, 2016

Seattle happenings

  • Yesterday, the Seattle Trails Alliance released a new app for iOS called Seattle Trails. The app, which got its start at the AT&T Mobile Parks & Rec Hackathon back in March, shows precise locations of trails in Seattle Parks as well as what kind of trail they are–gravel, bridge, paved, trail–and allows users to give feedback directly in the app. The app was developed by volunteers led by Eric Mentele, Theodore Abshire, and David Wolgemuth, with support from Seattle Parks Trails Manager Chukundi Salisbury. Thanks to volunteer Craig Morrison, an Android version is also in development. Ironically, on my way to the event yesterday, I followed Google Maps rather than the Seattle Trails app and found myself at a private “trailhead” I would have had to spend hours bushwhacking to get up to the real trailhead for the St. Mark’s Greenbelt. Next time, I’ll use the app! You can download it here.
  • Rebekah Bastian, VP of Product at Zillow, wrote an op-ed in the Huffington Post, “How Tech Communities Can Create Social Change.” She shares the steps she took to learn about homelessness before designing a solution and then highlights the Community Pillar program that emerged, through which 20,000 landlords and property managers have signed up to rent to people who might not otherwise find housing in the Seattle market. “We in the tech community have a unique opportunity to use our skills, resources and passion to create change,” she writes. “And with that opportunity comes responsibility – responsibility to better the communities that are supporting our growth.”
  • In “Seattle’s Virtual Road to Transcendence,” Seattle Weekly explores how our city’s VR/AR developers are breaking ground by going beyond traditional gaming to applications of virtual and augmented reality with potential to “radically transform psychology, medicine, therapy, education, policy-making, social and environmental justice, storytelling, and, ultimately, the limits of human consciousness and perception.”
  • Last weekend, at Zoohackathon at the Woodland Park Zoo, hackers took on various challenges related to wildlife trafficking, including product identification, fundraising for conservation organizations, gaming to raise public awareness of the issue, and, for the winning app, using crowdsourced data to identify the reasons for loss of orangutan habitat. As part of the event, hackers got to meet several of the Zoo’s “animal ambassadors,” experience a night tour, and attend Brew at the Zoo. This was the first global Zoohackathon, with six cities around the world participating. Check out the pre-event story on NPR and summaries in GeekWire and the Zoo’s blog.

 

National news

 

New tools

 

Must-reads

  • Civic technology is breaking out of the GovTech world: TechCrunch published “Creating a New Architecture of Government through Tech and Innovation,” a summary of more than 50 interviews conducted by Harvard’s Hollie Gilman and Georgetown’s Jessica Gover. They conclude: “Building a twenty-first-century government requires a governance structure that enables an internal ecosystem of innovation that invests in technology, better use of data, and partnerships that can measure and deliver results.” Their full report, “The Architecture of Innovation: Institutionalizing Innovation in Federal Policymaking” (launched at the Oct 6 event mentioned above), is well worth a read.
  • The Center for Open Data Enterprise published a new report based on a series of roundtables organized by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy earlier this year. The report addresses key issues in open data, including privacy, data quality, sharing research data, and public-private collaboration. Read the full report or check out this summary in the Huffington Post.
  • This is a must-listen rather than a must-read. In “Blame Game,” episode 8 of the Revisionist History podcast, Malcolm Gladwell breaks down the Toyota “sudden acceleration” scandal that resulted in the recall of 10 million vehicles due to mistrust of the cars’ technology. Spoiler alert: The technology was not to blame. The story has insights for consumers as well as policymakers struggling to understand how technology works and how to ensure it serves the public interest.

 

On the horizon

 

Upcoming events 

Events with official City involvement: 

Community events with a civic tech component:

If you’d like to suggest events or content, please email us at civic.tech@seattle.gov.