Code for America Logo

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).

 

Public Technology Institute Image

Raleigh Wins Web 2.0 Award

Raleigh, NC – Public Technology Institute (PTI) supports local government executives and elected officials through research, education, executive-level consulting services and national recognition programs.

Web 2.0 and civic/social media technologies are dynamic tools for informing citizens, encouraging collaboration and engaging the public in government decision making. To recognize best practices in the use of these technologies, PTI has launched the Web 2.0 State and Local Government Awards and Recognition Program.

Recently PTI Named Raleigh as one of the 2013 Web 2.0 Winning Jurisdictions.
Raleigh was recognized for their Open Data Portal (see Press Release). Raleigh Open has previously received a significant achievement award from PTI in the 2012-2013 Technology Solutions Awards

Open Raleigh History

130826 TOD

On February 7, 2012, the Raleigh City Council unanimously adopted an Open Source Resolution. In March 2013, the Raleigh Open Data Portal was launched (see WRAL report). Since the launch there are now 100 data sets, 67 maps and 292 charts on the site which is a treasure trove for citizens and journalists.

Open Raleigh Drives the Triangle

With Raleigh in the lead, Durham, Cary and Morrisville are not far behind. There are efforts to develop Open Data programs in all of these municipalities and there is a a budding community of civic hackers ready to use this data.

There are Code for America Brigades in Raleigh, Cary and Durham and soon to be in Morrisville.

A Code for America Brigade is an organizing force for local civic engagement – a national network of civic-minded volunteers who contribute their skills toward using the web as a platform for local government and community service.

Triangle Open Data Day, to be held February 22-23, 2014, will host 300-400 civic hackers in February 2014 who will look at all the available Open Data sets in the Triangle and see what useful analysis and apps they can make from the data.

Kudos to Raleigh for jump starting the Open Data movement in the Triangle.

All Things Open Conference Picture

Registration Open for All Things Open™

Raleigh, NC – Early Bird registration for All Things Open™ is now available for an unknown period, so register today! See News Release. This is a limited time offer.

This October 23-24, 2013 in Raleigh, NC, All Things Open™, a conference for technologists and decision makers around the topic of open source in the enterprise, will be held at the Raleigh Convention Center in downtown Raleigh, NC, the open source city.

Center for Digital Government (CDG) Digital Cities and Digital Counties Surveys

NC Counties 2013 Rank in Digital Counties

Wake County, NC –

Each year the Center for Digital Government (CDG) conducts the Digital Cities and Digital Counties Surveys to chronicle and rank local governments’ use of digital technology to streamline operations and improve service to constituents. The 2012 surveys found that although cities and counties are making great strides in information technology to support areas like economic development and constituent engagement, weaknesses still remain that are ripe for innovation. This Best Practice Guide helps address some of these weaknesses by highlighting the best practices displayed by cities and counties that are managing to move the needle and innovate.

The Center for Digital Government‘s Digital Counties Survey is conducted in partnership with the National Association of Counties (NACo) annually in the spring: March – April. All U.S. counties are invited to participate.

Congratulations to the 2013 Digital Counties Survey Winners!

500,000 or more population category:

150,000-249,999 population category:

Less than 150,000 population category:

Congratulations to all the NC Counties that placed in the Digital Counties Survey ranking!

Code for America Cary Logo

A Look Inside: Code for America Cary

Cary, NC – What is civic hacking for social good? Who or what is Code for America?

Lets take a look at what is going on with the Code for America Cary Brigade and maybe you will find out. (Full disclosure, I am an organizer and member of the Cary Brigade)

The Cary Brigade formed in May 2013 as a development of the Cary Technology Task Force, the subsequently formed Technology Tank, the first Cary Open Data Day and the support of the vibrant Raleigh Brigade of Code for America. The Cary Brigade has decided to start with visualizing commercial permit data in the town of Cary.

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.

Tuesday, July 23 was the third meeting of the brigade (we meet monthly). On May 24, 2013 we received commercial permit data files from Cary in response to a public records request from member Robert Campbell. We received 9 data files most likely from a relational database.

At our June meeting, the Google AppEngine was discussed as a way to develop the ‘back-end’ of the application. The first issue we encountered was that the file with the property locations had all of the geo-locations zeroed out, so an effort was made to geolocate all of the 79,000+ records (with a method that still has not been disclosed…) Since then, there were 2 different efforts to house and use this geocoded information:

Socrata

With the help of Reid Serozi, just hired by Socrata, The Cary Brigade was offered a Socrata Community Data Platform.  Here is what we were able to do in an hour with the Socrata platform:

Property Data set on Socrata

Property Data set on Socrata

Socrata Visualization - Heat Map of Cary Property Data

Socrata Visualization – Heat Map of Cary Property Data

Socrata Visualization - Point Map of Cary Property Data

Socrata Visualization – Point Map of Cary Property Data

During the meeting, Reid showed us how the point map could be accessed and displayed on his smart phone.

Parse.com

Brandon Smith took another route and used Parse as his data repository and with some awesome code was able to provide a simulated app from the data (we did not ask how long this took…):

Parse data file

Parse data file

Brandon Smith simulated app - Properties nearest to my Location

Brandon Smith simulated app – Properties nearest to my Location

Brandon Smith simulated app - Properties in my Neighborhood

Brandon Smith simulated app – Properties in my Neighborhood

Where do we go from here?

There is more investigation into the data, as we are not sure that we have the information that would allow the app to answer a compelling question. More data scrubbing, another public data request(?) and more investigation into the front-end display of the information.

If you are interested, please join us. You can contact Ian Henshaw for more information.

Town of Cary Website clip as of June 9, 2013

Electronic Participation in Government Meetings

Cary, NC – The Town of Cary now allows electronic participation in 2 of their 6 Boards and Commissions. At their April 18, 2013 meeting, the Cary Town Council approved a modification of the staff recommendation for electronic participation in meetings (Staff report TC13-07). In our opinion this modification to the policy unnecessarily creates a burden on town staff without offering the potential benefits to the board and commission members. Regardless of that, citizens with distance, time and/or disability issues now have the ability to participate in the development of  policy in the Town of Cary.

I participated electronically in the June 3, 2013 meeting of the Information Services Advisory Board (ISAB). My comments to Sue Rowland, the Cary Town Clerk, are as follows:

Once the meeting started, I was able to hear everything that was discussed in the meeting and was able to discern the different speakers after a few times of them giving their names. It was great to be able to hear the give and take in the meeting. Much better than just reading the minutes later on. The ISAB members are truly passionate about their responsibility.

What was really great was that 5 people had registered to participate electronically and 2 of us spoke during the public input part of the meeting. This input would have been lost if not for the new policy, so kudos to Cary.

The issue of electronic meetings is also being discussed in the NC State government. Thom Tillis, Speaker of the NC House, can be heard discussing electronic meetings in the May 14, 2013 edition of Carolina Newsmakers (1:17 – 3:20 is the discussion about electronic meetings). This rule change would be groundbreaking and would allow citizen involvement while reducing the burden on those who serve us in public office. I am not sure of the current status of electronic meetings in NC State government, but I have heard from at least one house member that the effort may be stalled because this is a slippery slope towards electronic voting in NC elections. I hope this is not the case.

In Cary, your next opportunities to participate electronically in meetings are:

Remember that you need to follow the Town Policy with regards to attending the meetings on an electronic basis.

Get involved and let us know what you think about Electronic Access for Government Meetings. Will this help to bring more transparency in your government?

Morrisville NC Logo

Morrisville Open Data Discussion On May 28

Press Release Published on 5/23/2013

Morrisville Town Councilman Steve Rao To Lead
Smarter Cities And Open Data Discussion On May 28

Councilman Rao To Discuss Support Of Initiatives And Their Goals At Town Hall

MORRISVILLE, N.C. – Steve Rao, (http://steverao.com/), an at-large member of the Morrisville Town Council, has announced that he will lead a discussion on the Smarter Cities and Open Data Initiatives on Tuesday, May 28 from 6:30 to 10 p.m. at the Morrisville Town Hall, located at 100 Town Hall Drive.

Rao intends for Morrisville to join a growing list of Wake County cities, most notably Cary and Raleigh, in supporting the White House’s Open Data Initiatives project. Open Data Initiatives work to accelerate and expand efforts to make government information resources more publicly accessible in “computer-readable” form and spurring the use of those data by entrepreneurs as fuel for the creation of new products, services and jobs. Innovative tools including the Weather Channel and GPS systems have all resulted from the government’s release of open data to the public.

Additionally, Rao will discuss reasons for Morrisville to participate in the Smarter Cities initiative, a complementary effort to the Open Data Initiatives project led by IBM. Smarter Cities aims to provide more open data and information to enable municipalities and governments to make better informed decisions in transportation, sustainability, crime and other critical areas.

QUOTES:
“The White House and cities across the United States have been turning to Open Data Initiatives to fuel the growth of innovations and entrepreneurship, while at the same time providing even greater government transparency for citizens and elected officials,” said Rao. “Morrisville, Wake County and North Carolina as a whole can all benefit from these types of programs, and I look forward to a productive discussion of the benefits of our participation in them.”

DETAILS:
– For more information on the White House’s Open Data Initiatives project, visit
http://1.usa.gov/YI9cXN

– For more information on IBM’s Smart City Initiative, visit
http://ibm.co/Hn1ZbM

NEW MEDIA CONTENT:
Steve Rao Facebook Page:
http://on.fb.me/14RbDdH

ABOUT STEVE RAO:
A resident of Morrisville, N.C., for 10 years, Councilman Steve Rao works to promote economic development by supporting local entrepreneurs, small businesses and startup companies in the IT industry to create new jobs in the Morrisville area and beyond. As business development manager at Alphanumeric Systems, he manages partnerships while increasing revenue and decreasing costs for companies through IT innovations. While serving his two-year term as an at-large member on the Morrisville Town Council through 2013, Rao serves as a member of the State IT Advisory Board, to which he was appointed by state Sen. Marc Basnight. He is charter member of the TIE Carolinas, a global mentoring organization for entrepreneurs, and a board member of the North Carolina Rural Entrepreneurship through Action Learning, an organization that focuses on entrepreneurial development in rural North Carolina, as he works to spur job creation locally. A founding member of the North Carolina Indian Political Action Committee (NCINPAC), Rao is the past president of the Indian American Forum for Political Education. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in political science from Emory University and his Juris Doctor from the West Virginia University College of Law. For more information on Rao and his platform, visit http://steverao.com/.

Kelsie Murdock
MMI Public Relations
(919) 233-6600
kelsie@mmipublicrelations.com
http://twitter.com/MMIPR
http://www.mmipublicrelations.com

Code for America Brigade logo

Cary Forms a Code for America Brigade

Cary, NC – The Code for America civic movement started in Raleigh and is rapidly spreading through the Triangle. There is strength in numbers and we all feel that the issues we want to solve, we want to solve on a regional basis. A state wide basis would be even better.

Cary Brigade Meeting

Cary’s brigade has started with finding several volunteers to be Brigade Captains. The Cary Brigade will hold a kick-off meeting on Tuesday, May 28, 2013 starting at 7:00 PM (EST) in Cary. The information is loaded in the Triangle Code for America Meetup Site. Register and join the Cary Code for America Brigade.

What is next for the Triangle?

Durham and Morrisville are also in the process of forming Brigades. The plan may be to form a Code for America Division for the Triangle, something that does not yet exist in the Code for America structure.  The Triangle Region would then apply to be a Code for America City in 2015 with support from the municipalities of the Triangle.

If this sounds cool, then join the Brigade in your Town or City, or help to form one.

Town of Cary logo

Open Government is Hard To Do

Cary, NC – On April 18, 2013, the Town of Cary Town Council discussed the “Use of Technology to Enhance Town of Cary Public Meetings” covered by Staff Report TC13-07.  The staff report was a follow up to the findings of the Town’s Technology Task Force (TTF) and a request from the Town’s Information Services Advisory Board (ISAB).  The Town Staff did a great job of distilling the findings and recommendations of the TTF in putting the report together and offering a groundbreaking recommendation that would have resulted in a very open process for Boards and Commissions.

It was not an easy discussion and the Council struggled with this topic for almost 40 minutes of  a Council meeting.  You can see the discussion on the Town of Cary YouTube channel:

The private sector has embraced electronic meetings as a way to increase productivity and enable attendance for a geographically dispersed workforce at a low cost. Telephone conference calls have been around for years, and newer technologies like WebEx, GoTo Meeting, Google Hangouts and many others have revolutionized meetings with video, whiteboard sharing, chat functionality, etc. that have dramatically increased the effectiveness of electronic meetings.

The Council discussions focused more on distractions from rude attendees and the perceived need to have everyone physically present rather than the empowerment and productivity that Technology tools can bring to meetings. The Council did decide to allow Board and Commission meetings to be opened for electronic attendance by citizens which is a strong message that the Town is moving towards Open Government. The Board and Commission members however were restricted in their ability to participate via electronic meetings.

In one year the Town will review their decision, so we hope that the Cary Town Council will then adopt their staff recommendation of a truly open and empowering process.