Rebranding icitizen; how to reduce wait times at polling places; and more.

  • This is civic tech: Our Jessica McKenzie has an in-depth story on how citizen science startup iSeeChange came to partner with NASA on an innovative new project to combine high-tech, satellite and other sensor info with low-tech, bottom-up reporting by ordinary people on the rising signs of climate change.
  • Bill Bushey of Open Twin Cities offers their definition of civic tech: “a set of processes involving deep engagement with diverse stakeholders for creating effective tools in support of public services.” That’s good, but in my humble opinion that’s more of a “how” than a “what.” To us here at Civicist the definition is pretty simple: civic tech is technology used for public good.
  • Adam Becker, the co-founder of the Department of Better Technology, a small govtech firm that grew out of the White House Presidential Innovation Fellows program, explains to Marquis Cabrera of the Huffington Post why DOBT’s main product Screendoor is so useful to government agencies.
  • Nashville’s icitizen has relaunched its mobile app with a complete rebranding, the company announced yesterday. Its CEO Russell Reeder blogs, “We are on a mission at icitizen to transform the way people communicate on civic issues, connect our communities, and promote meaningful change!”
  • Natalie Adona explains on the Democracy Fund blog how queueing theory and new technology can help election administrators reduce long waiting times at polling stations—or at least give them the factual ammunition they need to make the case for increased funding for poll workers. (The Voting Technology Project’s Election Management Toolkit is a great resource, by the way.)
  • Chicago’s innovative data-driven approach to helping food-safety inspectors target likely violators works, but despite running on open source code it’s only been picked up by one other city. CityLab’s Julian Spector drills down to explain why.
  • Here’s a nice review by Sid Espinoso of all the things Microsoft’s civic tech team has been involved in of the last year in the Bay Area.
  • InfoLib, the Liberia Freedom of Information Request Platform, has just launched, powered by Alaveteli software made by mySociety, and tied into a regular radio program run by iLab Liberia that will help it bridge the lack of Internet access there.
  • Maryann Kongovi is Code for America’s new COO, coming over from Google where she ran its Independent Full Service Agency business unit. Welcome to the world of civic tech!
  • New York State’s chief digital officer Rachel Haot is now the managing director of 1776, the global incubator and venture fund that focuses on startups aimed at disrupting public sector industries like education, health and energy, Jessica Hullinger reports for Fast Company.
  • In other news: NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden made an appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, not as a speaker but just as a presenter at the Suitable Technologies booth, Danny Hadron reports for The Guardian. The company makes the Beam, a rolling screen on wheels useful for remote commuting. ““What if you could commute to work without having to sit in traffic?” Snowden asked. “The US government basically cancelled my passport, but I’m sitting here in Las Vegas with you guys at CES.”
  • At Civic Hall, we roll that way, too!
  • ProPublica has launched a version of its website running as a “hidden service” on the Tor network, which means that someone can visit the site with complete anonymity, as Andy Greenberg reports for Wired.
  • The Atlantic’s Molly Ball explains how the Working Families Party, which is on the verge of going national, is trying to become the Tea Party of the left.
  • MoveOn’s presidential primary is now open. Voting closes on Sunday night.