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Code for America in NC 2015

Research Triangle, NC – 2014 was a very busy year in NC for the Code for America Brigades. In 2015, NC will continue to have a large percentage of the Code for America activities in the US.

NC Cities with Code for America Brigades 

Check out the brigade websites to see all of the cool projects that are being worked on. The best thing is that the projects are all open source and open data so they can be reused in other cities or expanded to regional efforts.

In the Triangle, the brigades take turns hosting big hack events including Triangle Open Data Day, CityCamp NC and Hack Duke while also supporting many other events during the year.

What is Code for America?

Code for America is a 501(c)3 non-profit that envisions a government by the people, for the people, that works in the 21st century.

Our programs change how we participate in government by:

  • connecting citizens and governments to design better services,
  • encouraging low-risk settings for innovation; and,
  • supporting a competitive civic tech marketplace.

What is a Code for America Brigade?

The Brigade network is an ongoing effort to deploy, maintain and sustain civic technology and open data infrastructures. Each Brigade is comprised of local volunteers and government employees who connect for regular hack nights, discussions and app development.

How Do I Get Involved?

Code for America is an open group and all can join. We need a diverse voice to be effective. Please join your local Meetup Group:

If you don’t live in any of these areas, please contact Ian Henshaw, Brigade Captain for Code for Cary and Managing Partner of Tech Tank, and he will get you connected!

Previous Tech Tank Articles on Code for America

How Libya’s Election Process is Better than the United States’s

Carrboro, NC – Libya’s efforts to establish a stable democracy have been marred by violence and the constant threat of government collapse since the ouster of General Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Despite the seemingly endless news about the country’s political chaos, Libya accomplished something the United States could not with healthcare.gov: the successful and smooth launch of a new technology platform.

Libya implemented a national voter registration by text messaging program that registered 1.5 million voters for June 25th’s elections. It is the first system of its kind in the world. Over 6 million text messages were sent to and from the system. What’s surprising is that nothing went wrong. An even more astonishing fact? It was an American firm, NC based Caktus Group, that developed the technology. Caktus developers created the technology in less than six months and for a fraction of the cost of healthcare.gov.

Libya SMS Voter Registration by Caktus Group
“The beauty of what we do as open source developers is that we can move very very quickly,” says Tobias McNulty, Caktus CEO. “Behind our team of four developers was the open source community, a global network of developers.”

Caktus developers, working closely with the Libyan government, a data security firm, a cellular network integrator, and well known technologist, Elliott Wilkes, and Middle East expert, Hunter Price, created a system that allowed voters and poll workers to register within seconds from any location in Libya, including their own homes. Registrants texted their national ID number and the code of their preferred voting location, then received a text confirmation.

During the pivotal June 25th elections widely considered to be Libya’s tipping point, Caktus staff were in Libya, making sure the voter registration system was again working smoothly. The voter registration databases were essential to how poll workers determined whether those that showed up could vote. Any hiccup in the system would be tantamount to disenfranchisement. News of violence dominated media coverage of the election, but this one aspect of the electoral process went off without a hitch.

“We were deeply aware of the responsibility we had to Libyan voters,” said McNulty, “We constantly tested the system at each step, including the capacity to handle hundreds of thousands of simultaneous text messages. Even the smallest amount of code was raked over the coals.”

Libya continues to face many incredible challenges as a doubtful world watches on. But amongst the seemingly unending bad news, there is at least one bright spot even the US cannot claim: you can text message your voter registration while drinking a cup of coffee.


Article and picture contributed by Caktus Group. Caktus began in 2007 in Carrboro’s Creative Co-working space. It has since grown to the point that they have purchased and are currently refurbishing a building in downtown Durham.

Transloc Apps on an iPhone

TransLōc Releases New App

Raleigh, NC – TransLōc has released a rider-centric iOS app appropriately called Rider. Rider combines all bus agency routes into one screen that shows you the location of the closest bus stop and when the buses will arrive. The user can set alerts so that they will be notified when the bus is arriving at the stop. No more hanging out at the bus stop to make sure that you don’t miss the next bus, you can sit and enjoy your coffee

What is TransLōc?

TransLōc’s mission is to revolutionize transit for riders.

TransLōc was founded in 2004 to empower mass transit agencies and riders with the best possible location technology. We combine innovative hardware with easy-to-use products to answer the questions that matter most: Where’s my bus? And when will it arrive at my stop?

Why Release Rider?

TransLoc Rider App showing closest stop and bus arrival times

TransLōc Rider App showing closest stop and bus arrival times.

The new app gives a much better experience for the rider. With improvements in mobile technology TransLōc is able to build on these new platforms to provide an app that is 100% focused on the user.

TransLōc reports that the original app will be discontinued at some point in the future when the users have mostly migrated to the new app.

Rider is only available for the iOS platform at present, and TransLōc is working on releasing an Android version soon.

TransLōc Coverage in NC

The following Transit Systems in NC use TransLōc:

  • Capital Area Transit – Raleigh, NC
  • Cary Transit
  • Chapel Hill Transit
  • Duke University
  • Durham Area Transit
  • North Carolina State University
  • Triangle Transit – Research Triangle, NC

What Do You Think?

What do you think of the new app? (iOS users only right now…) With the increase in helpful information from this App would you be more likely to ride transit?

Previous Articles on TransLōc

Code for America Logo

Code for America in NC

Research Triangle, NC –

What is Code for America?

Code for America is a 501(c)3 non-profit that envisions a government by the people, for the people, that works in the 21st century.

Our programs change how we participate in government by:

  • connecting citizens and governments to design better services,
  • encouraging low-risk settings for innovation; and,
  • supporting a competitive civic tech marketplace.

Code for America in NC

In 2014, NC will have a large percentage of the Code for America activities in the US.

NC Cities with a Code for America Fellowship Program

NC Cities with Code for America Brigades 

What is a Code for America Fellowship?

The Fellowship is Code for America’s best known program and consists of a one year residency placing developers, designers and researchers within local governments. Over the course of the program, fellows and government partners build apps, inspire new thinking amongst public servants and tackle some of our country’s toughest problems.

What is a Code for America Brigade?

The Brigade network is an ongoing effort to deploy, maintain and sustain civic technology and open data infrastructures. Each Brigade is comprised of local volunteers and government employees who connect for regular hack nights, discussions and app development.

Brigade Projects in the Triangle

  • The Raleigh Brigade was one of 15 inaugural Code for America Brigades in 2012. The Raleigh Brigade participated in the Code for America ‘Race for Reuse’ campaign and developed and deployed the Adopt-a-Shelter app for Raleigh. The Raleigh Brigade sponsors Triangle Wiki and CityCamp NC
  • The Cary Brigade formed in 2013 and is currently working on an app to visualize development data in Cary. The Cary Brigade sponsors Triangle Open Data Day
  • The Durham Brigade formed in 2013 and is currently working on a Durham Restaurant app. The Durham Brigade is working with the City of Durham and Durham County to adopt a joint Open Data Policy
  • In December 2013 the Triangle Brigades cooperated in an event to assist Raleigh with their Open Data Portal

Code for America - Joint meeting to assist Open Raleigh

How Do I Get Involved?

Code for America is an open group and all can join. We need a diverse voice to be effective. Please join your local Meetup Group:

If you don’t live in any of these areas, please contact Ian Henshaw, Brigade Captain for Code for Cary and Managing Partner of Tech Tank, and he will get you connected!

Previous Tech Tank Articles on Code for America

Picture by Reid Serozi

Picture: Code for America Helps Raleigh

Code for America Helps Raleigh

Raleigh, NC – Last night the Triangle Code for America Brigades came together to help the City of Raleigh with their Open Data Portal. The task was to clean up the tagging and metadata for all the data files that have been added since the version 1.0 portal was launched in March 2013. At the beginning of 2014, Raleigh will be migrating the portal to version 2.0 and wants to have the data as clean as possible and so most useful to citizens and entrepreneurs.

Representatives from the Raleigh, Durham, Cary and (brand new) Morrisville Brigades met at the North Carolina Innovation Center for a mini-hackathon to clean up the Raleigh data sets.

Data Identification Problem

Jason Hare, Open Data Manager for Raleigh gives direction

Jason Hare, Open Data Manager for Raleigh, gives the assembled group direction.

Hason Hare, the Open Data Manager for Raleigh gave us direction on what Raleigh needs. Each data set was to be reviewed for such things as data set naming, identifying the proper data category, cleaning up tagging, and verifying proper attribution for source of the data and licence of the data (Public Domain).

Having a common nomenclature for data descriptions and metadata is important. Currently, there is no standard for data set naming, field naming or metadata. This becomes a problem when open data sets from multiple municipalities are combined; what data in City A corresponds to the data from City B? Until there are uniform definitions and structure, Open Data will have problems with data integration across regions.

Issues of correctly naming data sets also has some importance.  An example given by Jason is that police “crime” data sets are more accurately described as police “incident” data sets.  As Jason sees it, an incident can be reported immediately, but there might be a lengthy process to properly identify a crime.

Data Definition Solution

There is light at the end of this open data tunnel as Jason has been invited to attend a meeting of the top US cities with Open Data programs to review data categorization and nomenclature.  The meeting has been called by the Technology Office of the White House to start developing a data nomenclature.  There is a high priority in solving this issue before it becomes overly burdensome for all of the Open Data programs.

It is good to see Raleigh included with the top US cities at the forefront of Open Data.

Related Articles:

Pictures from Reid Serozi and Jason Hibbets

2030 Dashboard Image

Dashboard 2030

Research Triangle, NC – RTI International announced yesterday the release of Dashboard 2030, an online tool to track North Carolina’s progress in economic development, business climate and job growth..

About Dashboard

Dashboard 2030 informs dialogue and catalyzes action to address North Carolina’s economic development challenges and opportunities. It provides independent and objective data on leading indicators of state and business competitiveness. It was created by RTI International and funded by the North Carolina Chamber Foundation, to track progress toward North Carolina Vision 2030 – A Plan for Accelerating Job Growth and Securing North Carolina’s Future.

Dashboard 2013 Design

The guiding principals for development of Dashboard 2013 are:

  • Independence
  • Objectivity
  • Transparency

RTI International was selected for objectivity and independence.  Transparency: The data is provided so that individuals can understand the indicators and perform additional analysis if they want.

A Useful Tool

We hope that this tool will be valuable for policy formation in North Carolina.  Check out Dashboard 2030 and let us know what you think.

Preview of the revised Raleigh Open Data Portal

Crowdsourcing Open Raleigh

Raleigh, NC – All hands on deck! The Open Data equivalent of a barn raising is about to happen in Raleigh this Thursday, December 5, 2013. The Raleigh Open Data Portal is pending a major revision and things like structure and metadata need to be cleaned up to make this site as useful as possible to citizens and entrepreneurs.

You do not want to miss out on the opportunity of participating in this event of major importance to the Triangle (and NC) where municipalities, civic groups and vendors will be collaborating for social good.  No coding skills required. Just mad civic-minded organization skills needed.

Jason Hare, the Open Data Manager for Raleigh, and Reid Serozi, Data Solutions Architect for Socrata, are organizing this event to be held at the new North Carolina Innovation Center. All of the local Code for America Brigades are expected to be participating in this event. (Note: Jason is a Brigade Captain with Code for Morrisville and Reid is a Brigade Captain with Code for Raleigh.  Disclosure: I am a Brigade Captain with Code for Cary)

Crowdsourcing Open Raleigh Details

  • What: Crowdsourcing Open Raleigh
  • Where: North Carolina Innovation Center, 217 West Jones St. Raleigh, NC 27603
  • When: Thursday, December 5th starting at 6pm
  • Why: Make an impact in the Triangle
  • What to bring: Laptop, small extension cord, notebook, markers
  • RSVP: Triangle Code for America Meetup Group

Related Blog Posts

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Triangle Adds Brigades to Code for America

Research Triangle, NC – Code for America has released a list of 15 cities that will be added to the Brigade Program in 2013 which is great news for the Triangle. Both Cary and Durham have been added and will join Raleigh with Code for America Brigades in the coming year. Cities like Austin, Boston, Chicago, San Diego, Seattle and Washington DC have Code for America Brigades.

With this announcement, the Triangle will have 3 of the 31 Brigades in Code for America (NC has 4 Brigades including Asheville). This is a strong indicator of the developing Technology ecosystem here in the Triangle.

What is Code for America?

Code for America aims to improve the relationships between citizens and government. We help governments restructure to create low-risk settings for innovation, engage citizens to create better services, and support ongoing competition in the govtech marketplace.

CfA_Brigade_logo

What is a Code for America Brigade?

The Code for America Brigade Program started with 15 cities in 2012 including Raleigh.

The purpose of Brigade is to create and sustain local instances of shared goals and strategic outcomes.

  • Governments leveraging technology more effectively
  • Citizens and community groups solving civic issues
  • Cities collaborating to work better
  • Civic apps built on linked, open data

The targeted outcome is to establish or reinforce a local citizen group for civic tech that interacts with municipal government on a regular basis.

Code for America Raleigh Brigade

Code for Raleigh formed in 2012, and has Captains Chad Foley, Jason Hibbets, Jason Horne and Reid Serozi. The Raleigh Brigade runs the very successful CityCamp program for several years with the latest CityCamp NC held in May.  The Raleigh Brigade also supports the adoption of the Triangle Wiki project.  In the Brigade meetings, the group is working on an Adopt-a-Shelter app for bus shelters in Raleigh.

Our Brigade is participating in the Code for America Race for Reuse campaign, however the City of Raleigh didn’t ask us to do this. As citizens, we saw an opportunity to improve our city and implement a technology front-end to an existing program offered by the city. It wasn’t just about deploying a project, it was about making our city and the citizen experience a little bit better. By forming and organizing our Brigade, we’re helping to advance the open government movement. – Jason Hibbets, Brigade Captain.

Code for America Cary Brigade

Code for Cary formed in early 2013, and has Captains Robert Campbell and Ian Henshaw. The Cary Brigade ran the successful Cary Open Data Day in February and is planning Triangle Open Data Day for February, 2014.  In the Brigade meetings, the group is working on a visualization of development data in the Town of Cary.

Code for America is a great way to engage our citizens who have a technical background. By using their techie skills, they can get involved in some interesting web projects or apps and in doing so will learn more about the Town and may find other ways to also get involved with other civic projects. I am very happy that Code for Cary has been accepted as an official Brigade since this will bring added visibility and credibility to our efforts to help the Town of Cary – Ian Henshaw, Brigade Captain.

Code for America Durham Brigade

Code for Durham is newly formed in 2013, and has Captains Colin Copeland and Andrew Krzmarzick.

For several months, we have been meeting with key stakeholders from Durham City and County, the nonprofit sector as well as entrepreneurs and software developers interested in leveraging open data for the benefit of our community. This acknowledgement by Code for America as part of the regional Triangle Brigade is another important milestone that is sure to vault Durham and the Triangle to the forefront of the global open government movement – Andrew Krzmarzick, Brigade Captain.

Code for America Triangle Brigade

Due to the nature of the Technology ecosystem in the Triangle Area, the Raleigh, Cary and Durham Brigades are working together to develop a Triangle-wide Brigade (or Division?). Each City will have their own Brigade working closely with their municipal governments on projects important to the Town or City, but there is also a need to assist with Regional issues that are important to all of the Towns, Cities and Counties in the Triangle Area.

The Brigades in the Triangle want to support additional brigades in Triangle municipalities, so if you are from Apex, Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Fuquay-Varina, Holly Springs, Morrisville, Wake Forest, etc. and you want to form your own brigade, please contact any of the Brigade Captains listed above.  Anyone outside the Triangle that wants to start a Brigade, feel free to contact us as well (Hey you in the Triad, Charlotte, Wilmington, Greenville, Fayetteville, Jacksonville, etc. – contact us).

There is a Triangle Code for America Meetup Group that lists all of the meetings of the Raleigh, Cary and Durham Brigades as well as the newly forming Triangle Division.  Please come to a meeting and find out how you can become involved.

 

CORRECTION: We originally reported the introduction of  the numbers of Brigades (should be 16 in 2012) using the numbers for the introduction of Fellowship cities (3 cities in 2011 and an additional 8 cities in 2012).

 

PulsePoint App shown on Phones - Image

Open Data: Give us PulsePoint

Triangle, NC – A GovTech.com post by Yo Yoshida on August 29, 2013 is “A Call for Local, Open Data

In order for all citizens to truly benefit from open data, every city, county, and state needs to make their data more accessible.

One of the promising Apps coming from Open Data is the PulsePoint App. There is more good information in the article, and you should read the full article, but I will stop with PulsePoint.

PulsePoint

Earlier this year, Contra Costa County in California launched the PulsePoint mobile application. The app notifies smartphone users who are trained in CPR when someone nearby may be in need of the lifesaving procedure.

PulsePoint is a 501(c)(3) non-profit foundation based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Our mission is to make it much easier for citizens who are trained in CPR to use their life saving skills to do just that…save lives!


PulsePoint App – PSA from Fire Department on Vimeo.

To date, 26 municipalities have adopted PulsePoint.

Bring PulsePoint to the Triangle

In May at CityCamp NC, the Keynote speaker – Adriel Hampton, VP of Community at NationBuilder introduced us to PulsePoint. I am part of a team that wants to bring PulsePoint to the Triangle (See Article).

This seemed to be so easy! The App is available, the foundation exists to support the app long term so all we need to do is to hook into it and turn it on, right?  The members of the team have been making contacts and finding out lots of information.  3 months have passed and we don’t seem to be closer to the goal.

The Triangle is Complex

Rolling out the App in one city requires one Emergency Dispatch service and one municipality to get behind the effort. The Triangle is composed of multiple Counties, Municipalities and Emergency Dispatch Centers.

The municipal boundaries in the Triangle are not so clear to its residents. We may live in Raleigh, work in Morrisville, eat in Durham and attend a sporting event in Cary, all in one day (well maybe, but you get the idea). So everyone needs to be on board to bring PulsePoint to the Triangle.

Our ecosystem is ripe for PulsePoint. The Triangle is full of people who are civically minded. Lots of us are CPR trained and want to help. Many municipalities and counties have an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) inventory as part of their strategic plans. How cool would it be to leverage the Technology we carry constantly and help to save lives!

How Can I Help?

Contact your elected officials and let them know that you think that bringing PulsePoint to the Triangle is important.

Let Ian Henshaw know that you want to join in the team effort.

JouleBug Logo

JouleBug Improves Sustainability for Communities

Cary, NC – I first heard of JouleBug in November 2012 at the Entrepreneurs Lecture Series held by the NC State Entrepreneurship Initiative. Grant Williard was giving his advice on the most important things to do when you are standing up a new start-up company, and he showed off his new venture – JouleBug.

What is JouleBug?

JouleBug is a playful mobile app that encourages you to improve your sustainability habits at home, work, and play. By competing with your Facebook and Twitter friends to earn badges and pins, you can lower energy bills, reduce waste, and make a big impact on the planet.

JouleBug is a free app available in the Apple App Store and in the Google Play Store. Communities subscribe and pay for service to get their citizens involved in sustainability activities.

130821 JouleBug badge RaleighJouleBug Adoption in the Triangle

In October 2012, Raleigh partnered with JouleBug and the custom “Sustainable Raleigh” badge was released making Raleigh the first municipality in the nation with a City badge  (More details are in the Raleigh Press Release). The JouleBug Sustainable Raleigh badge is available to users who earn enough points and pins by accomplishing various tasks unique to Raleigh such as:

  • Downtown Walkaround – Complete the Downtown Raleigh Sustainability Walking Tour
  • Raleigh Rocket – Ride an R-Line bus
  • Juice Box – Use a Raleigh electric vehicle charging station
  • Solar Squisher – Use a BigBelly solar recycle station
  • The City of Spokes – Exercise along one of the City’s sustainable parks or greenways
  • Hometown Hero – Volunteer eight hours of community service within the City

130821 JouleBug badgeToday, the Town of Cary announced a partnership with JouleBug with an exclusive “Cary It Green” badge which highlights conservation activities and programs offered by the Town of Cary (More details are in the Cary Press Release). The release of the mobile app to convey sustainable practices in Cary comes on the heels of the Town’s recently expanded Cary It Green Facebook page. The JouleBug “Cary It Green” badge is available to users who earn enough points and pins by accomplishing various tasks unique to Cary such as:

  • Trash to Treasure – Donate an item instead of throwing it away
  • Aquastar – Log into your online Aquastar account
  • Spruce It Up – Volunteer for a green volunteer project
  • Park Place – Walk or bike a Cary greenway

What Powers JouleBug? Competition

In May 3, 2013, WRAL ran a story on the JouleBug adoption in Raleigh. John Williard, the JouleBug Creative Director stated “We found that people are more than 10 times more engaged when they’re actively playing and competing with each other.”

Raleigh ran a competition with the winner will receiving prize worth $200. Employees at I-Cubed, a software engineering firm on Centennial Campus in Raleigh, who have been using the app and competing with each other stated that the JouleBug app has provided “the little bit of motivation that you need [to participate in sustainable activities]”

What Do You Think?

  • What do you think about JouleBug? Will you download the app?
  • Is competition or ‘gamification’ required to get people to participate in sustainable activities?
  • What other activities do you think need to be added to the badges? What ideas do you have for new badges?