Month: June 2015

SeeClickFix raises $1.4 million to grow its 311 platform

SeeClickFixSeeClickFix announced today it raised an additional $1.4 million in investment to expand its 311 offering aimed at making it easier for city residents to report non-emergency issues and allow governments to quickly respond and resolve these in an open and public manner.

Previous investors Omidyar Network and O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures contributed to the new round along with new investors New Elm Street Ventures, Connecticut Innovations and LaunchCapital.

According to the announcement, SeeClickFix has 25 employees with plans to double over the next year.

SeeClickFix was founded in 2008 and, in January 2011, received its first major round of funding at $1.5 million.

“Our citizen and government users have the same goal—to resolve problems and improve neighborhoods,” said SeeClickFix CEO Ben Berkowitz announcing the new investment. “This funding will allow SeeClickFix to accelerate development and adoption of the next generation of request management—improving communication and communities throughout the world.”

“The SeeClickFix platform has demonstrated significant, tangible social impact,” said Omidyar Network’s Stacy Donohue in the release. “The team has created a scalable, low-cost way to turn citizen concerns and frustration into participation and engagement while strengthening community bonds.”

18F starts building pattern library for federal government websites

Government Wide Pattern Library

18F has started building a much-needed federal government-wide pattern library.

For those unfamiliar with the concept of a pattern library, it’s a standardized, front-end design style guide for all the components of a website, such as fonts, colors, layout and forms (example: Code for America’s pattern library).

This is an important project in that it (hopefully) begins to set a standard common look and feel for all federal government websites and moves the focus from design to user experience.

If agencies get on board with the standardization, millions of dollars in savings would be realized, not to mention a path for expedited development processes because front-end code can be easily re-purposed and deployed.

Clarification

Submit your applications for the Code for America Technology Awards

Code for America has opened up applications for its inaugural Code for America Technology Awards to honor “outstanding products and implementations of government technology.”

Applicants must meet CfA’s Government Technology Principles and the following specifications:

  • Currently used by at least one U.S.-based government agency
  • Available for other government agencies to use. For example, it could be available through well-documented open source code or available for purchase through a vendor.
  • At least one team member or representative must be available to attend the Code for America Summit and accept the award.

Winners will receive three tickets to the Code for America Summit on September 30 to October 2 in Oakland, Calif., where the awards will be announced and presented.

Application deadline is July 13. Details at awards.codeforamerica.org.

GOV.UK refreshes digital services strategy, goals

GOV.UK (Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/rooreynolds/16094419483/in/pool-govuk/">Roo Reynolds</a>)

GOV.UK (Photo: Roo Reynolds)

In a series of blog posts, the UK Government Digital Service team has announced a new post-migration roadmap that includes updates to its go-forward strategy, team structure and key goals for 2015-2016.

“Now that everything is in one place and hundreds of legacy government domains have been redirected to GOV.UK, we have the full data to be able to understand what’s required to run and support GOV.UK to meet the needs of the millions of users, thousands of publishers and hundreds of service managers across government who rely on our platform every week,” writes GOV.UK Director James Thornett.

As part of the changes, three product teams will focus on core publishing tools and formats, custom and complex formats and search, navigation and taxonomies (see also content team updates from March).

According to Thornett, GDS manages 800 user contacts per day, double the amount received in the first three months of the site’s launch, with a 97% resolution rate within five working days.

Here are the 2015-2016 goals:

  1. Join up support and production
  2. Measure and improve performance levels
  3. Really design with data
  4. Make it easier for users to find things
  5. Reform GOV.UK’s technical architecture
  6. Iterate the most minimal, least viable products

Hard to believe, but the beta version of GOV.UK launched in 2012. So much has been accomplished organizationally there, and in a short period of time GDS has had a huge impact on the global government digital service movement.

Boston, St. Louis civic tech teams get $200,000 to improve the lives of low-income people

Civic technology teams in Boston and St. Louis were awarded $200,000 each to leverage data and technology to improve the lives of low-income residents as part of the new Civic Tech and Data Collaborative sponsored by Living Cities, Code for America and Urban Institute’s National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership.

The Boston team will focus on connecting youth to summer jobs and the St. Louis team on making it easier to navigate the criminal justice system.

“Every day, city residents navigate a maze of systems to complete basic tasks like accessing government services or paying traffic tickets,” said Urban Institute President Sarah Rosen Wartell and Code For America Director of Community Organizing Catherine Bracy on the Living Cities blog announcing the initiative. “These tasks, inconvenient for everyone, can be so numerous, burdensome and time-consuming for lower-income people that they can amount to a job unto themselves.”

“When it comes to addressing poverty in America’s cities, our pace of change is too slow, and the scale too small,” said Living Cities President and CEO Ben Hecht in a prepared statement. “We want to prove that the disruptive power of data and technology can be harnessed to achieve dramatically better results in the lives of low-income people, faster.

Financial support for the initiative is provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Read the full announcement and press release for details.

ForeignAssistance.gov beta shows how government can use the power of open data

ForeignAssistance.gov

Source: ForeignAssistance.gov

The new beta of U.S. Department of State’s ForeignAssistance.gov shows how government can leverage the power of data and visualizations to communicate the story behind its mission deliverables.

The country and category pages, Tanzania and economic development for example, are beautifully done with concise text and clean, flat layouts. The explore feature visually shows where money is allocated using a drill-down map that makes it easier to see how foreign assistance is being distributed globally. The “download data” feature is prominently accessible everywhere.

According to State, the project took a year to develop. ForeignAssistance.gov first launched in 2010 to “increase aid transparency and serve as a mechanism for users to view, analyze, and track foreign assistance data from across the U.S. Government.”

Google is feeling lucky about civic technology

Sidewalk Labs

Google has launched Sidewalk Labs, an “urban innovation company devoted to improving city life for residents, businesses and city governments, in particular by developing and incubating civic technologies.”

Former Bloomberg LP CEO and New York City Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff will lead the new venture, which will be based in NYC.

“By improving urban technology, it’s possible to significantly improve the lives of billions of people around the world,” Google CEO Larry Page said in a prepared statement. “With Sidewalk, we want to supercharge existing efforts in areas such as housing, energy, transportation and government to solve real problems that city-dwellers face every day.”

Read Page’s Google+ post announcing Sidewalk Labs.

White House joins with 11 cities for ‘Startup in a Day’ initiative to help businesses launch faster

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee shops at Foggy Notion in the Inner Richmond with Supervisor Eric Mar all in support of local small businesses. (Photo: Mayor Ed Lee)

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee shops at Foggy Notion in the Inner Richmond with Supervisor Eric Mar all in support of local small businesses. (Photo: Mayor Ed Lee)

In an effort to help entrepreneurs get businesses legally established without the red tape hassle, the White House, Small Business Administration and National League of Cities are rallying cities to provide simpler online tools and processes for those applying for licenses and permits.

According to the White House, the “Startup in a Day” initiative aims to encourage cities to “develop online tools that let entrepreneurs discover and apply—in less than a day—for local, state, and federal requirements needed to start a business.”

The initiative, via the SBA, will host a competition for $1.5 million in prizes that includes $50,000 to 25 communities and $250,000 in prizes to a consortium of “local and state governments who team up to develop tools that cover multiple regions, or that can be easily repurposed by other localities.”

Cities who have already made “Startup in a Day” pledge commitments include Boston, Chattanooga (TN), Denver, Fresno, (CA), Kansas City (MO), Nashville, San Francisco, St. Petersburg (FL), Salt Lake City, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

As part of this initiative, I’d love to see cities work together to create data standards around license and permit data and pledge to make this data available via read and write application programming interfaces that could work for more than just one tool, as opposed to solely encouraging the development of tools. This could also be the basis for localized business directories that would serve citizens looking for more information about a specific business or types of businesses in their community.

This is great news for business permit licensing startup OpenCounter. Expect to see momentum from them on some front in the near future, perhaps even an infusion of venture funding.

“Startup in a Day” pledge

Our cities and communities are committed to making it easier for every entrepreneur to start a business. We believe an entrepreneur’s time is best spent developing innovative products and services, creating jobs, and growing local economies—not navigating red tape. While fair zoning rules, licenses, and permits are important to ensuring public safety and fair competition, it shouldn’t take more than a day for entrepreneurs to identify and begin to apply, ideally through a single online tool, for the licenses and permits they need to responsibly launch a business. Accordingly, we resolve to:

1. Create a “Startup in a Day” online tool within 12 months: We will develop within a year a website or application that lets most entrepreneurs identify and begin to apply within one day for all requirements to launch a business in our respective communities.

2. Develop a streamlined, business-friendly, online permitting system: Our pledge is a first step in a larger effort to streamline, simplify, and bring online those regulatory requirements that have traditionally been fragmented across multiple agencies and handled through a paper-based process. Our ultimate goal is for small business owners to be able to manage and complete most of their regulatory obligations within a single easy-to-use online system.

3. Share best practices: In an effort to encourage other municipalities to join us in this effort, we are joining a community of practice administered by the National League of Cities, and commit to sharing best practices, publicizing key learnings, highlighting tangible outcomes, supporting smart regulatory simplification, and providing visibility into our actions.

Open source-based PaaS provider BlackMesh gets FedRAMP green light

BlackMeshA big win for government open source advocates, platform as a service provider BlackMesh has achieved Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program compliance through its SecureCloud offering.

The company’s authority to operate, granted in May, was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. The agency has worked with BlackMesh since 2010. According to the company, the process took nearly a year, starting in May 2014 with official authorization granted in April.

BlackMesh provides cloud services based on OpenStack and OpenShift.

FedRAMP is the federal government’s program aimed at making it easier for agencies to adopt cloud services under the “do once, use many times” mantra. Once cloud vendors have met FedRAMP’s security protocol, any agency can quickly procure the services safely knowing they meet federal standards.

BlackMesh was founded in 2003 and is headquartered in Ashburn, Va., with U.S. servers located in Reston and Las Vegas.

Building an internal digital government champions network

Jenny Cearns from GOV.UK’s Department of Health has a great post on cultivating a community of digital champions within government that mirrors what I know some chief data officers are doing around creating an internal network of data coordinators.

Both programs are aimed at creating community, efficient communications and collaboration and establishing an ongoing, modern-day education program that can serve as a solid foundation for digital awareness and momentum.

From Cearns:

“In a nutshell- the Champions help us and we help them. They’re our eyes and ears across the Department on how digitally savvy we are (or aren’t), and in the process, they get extra learning and development opportunities, whether that be a corporate objective, or a way of making their own working life smarter and more efficient.

“Ultimately being a Digital Champion is about having a ‘digital’ mindset, and by that, I mean being inquisitive and willing to try new things, whilst mindful of our work context and the security it demands. It’s about giving things a go, and thinking about how digital could benefit those we work with too.”

Developing a Digital Champions Network similar to what GOV.UK’s health department has allows for a central team to easily join forces with innovators across agencies or departments and exponentially infuse energy, awareness and action into innovation efforts such as digital and open data.

What’s great about this type of program is that it’s inclusive and scales potential for impact.

Full post: “How to be a Digital Champion