As more startups work to find solutions to civic issues, governments are taking notice and joining forces with them to help drive innovation.

According to a joint report by the Knight Foundation and Quid released last year, so-called civic tech companies across the country raised a total of $431 million from 2011 through 2013. From San Francisco's entrepreneur-in-residence program to joint initiatives in Detroit aimd at eliminating urban blight, check out the civic-minded projects and programs underway around the country.

Talent Pipeline and Pre-K in New York City

According to the New York City mayor's office, Silicon Alley companies have created 291,000 jobs and added $30 billion in wages annually to the city's economy. To help ensure some of those well-paying tech sector jobs go to native New Yorkers, in May Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the start of the Tech Talent Pipeline. The program cultivates working relationships between The City University of New York and the city departments of education and small business services, and distributes $10 million in city, state, federal, and private funding over three years to help recruit and train New Yorkers. 

Meanwhile, to implement his universal pre-kindergarten program for all 4-year-olds in New York City, de Blasio is wrangling help from local tech companies to help with the logistics. De Blasio has announced that Google, consulting firm Control Group, and digital design firm Huge are helping the city implement the program and ensure its long-term success.

San Francisco's Entrepreneur-in-Residence program

Last week San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee announced the names of six tech startups that will kick off San Francisco's Entrepreneur-in-Residence program, working with government agencies to build tools to provide better and more efficient services. "San Francisco is home to the world's greatest entrepreneurs, the ones who have 'disrupted' numerous industries, and we are bringing those same disruptive technologies to improve delivery of city services for our residents," Lee said during the announcement. "The Entrepreneurship-in-Residence program brings together government and startups to explore ways we can use technology to make government more accountable, efficient, and responsive."

As TechCrunch reports, the first batch of startups to take part in the four-month collaboration includes Birdi, a smart device startup working with the Department of Public Health to build a smart air monitor for emergency situations; MobilePD, which is working with the San Francisco police department on an app that allows officers to access crime maps, take field notes, and shoot photos during arrests and interviews, and sync their information with police databases; and ReGroup, which is working with the city's department of emergency management to build an emergency group messaging system that would give citizens an alert minutes before an earthquake hits.

A startup tracks urban blight in Detroit

With 80,000 abandoned buildings, Detroit has a huge urban blight problem, which not only lowers the value of entire neighborhoods, but also poses health and physical risks for residents. Loveland Technologies, a startup based in Detroit and San Francisco, works with governments, neighborhood groups, and development groups to gather public information about the status and condition of properties and parcels of land. In Detroit, Loveland started the Motor City Mapping project to record real-time data about every single parcel, property, and building throughout every neighborhood in an effort to rid the city of blight and abandoned buildings.

Along with other local organizations, Loveland also is part of the White House's Detroit Blight Removal Task Force. Members of the task force and 150 volunteers armed with tablets have recorded every blighted property and building. The startup built an app called Blexting, which allows any citizen to update the database by snapping a picture on their smartphone. The information will be used to sell and develop the blighted areas parcel by parcel.


Published on: Aug 4, 2014