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By GCN Staff


code for america police open data census

Code for America launches police open data census

This week Code for America launched the Police Open Data Census  --  a collection of the police interaction datasets available online. It includes use of force incidents, officer-involved shootings and complaints against police as well as response times and citations. It also indicates whether the data is online, machine readable, up to date and available in bulk, and notes whether context is provided and whether incident-level data is available as opposed to aggregated numbers.

The census was created when Code for America discovered there was no way for cities to see what other jurisdictions were doing in terms of opening information around police interactions with citizens.

So far, the census includes information from just 27 jursidictions, including counties like Anne Arundel County, Md., as well as major cities like Dallas and San Francisco. For many cities, not much open data is available, though Code for America hopes to encourage cities and counties to contribute.

Municipalities with open data on police interactions are asked to contact Code for America to add their data.

Posted on Jun 02, 2015 at 1:00 PM0 comments


Census launches City SDK for civic hackers

Census launches City SDK for civic hackers

The Census Bureau’s City new software development kit (City SDK) gives civic hackers a toolkit building applications that take advantage of Census datasets.

The SDK, released on June 1, takes the most common functionalities developers were building on top of the Census application programming interface and added them directly into the SDK, the Bureau said on the City SDK GitHub page.

The City SDK includes code that converts latitude/longitude or ZIP codes to FIPS state and county codes; the ability to request GeoJSON (an open source geographic shapefile/boundary format) right along with data from Dataweb (for mapping); and a modular architecture that makes it easy to mashup Census data with third-party data.

The bureau is calling on civic hackers to use the toolkit in its City SDK Open Data Solutions Challenge, which is asking developers to apply multiple open datasets to address city sustainability issues by leveraging economic, environmental, social, cultural and housing data.

Running from June 6 to July 31, 2015, the challenge seeks innovative applications and tools that use the City SDK, at least one city dataset and at least two distinct federal datasets.

The City SDK also makes its appearance just in time for the National Day of Civic Hacking, which will take place in cities across the country on June 6.

The City SDK is an open-source project; more information is available on GitHub.

Posted on Jun 01, 2015 at 9:33 AM0 comments


Virginia community colleges pilot open textbooks

Virginia community colleges pilot open textbooks

The Virginia Community College System announced a pilot program to replace traditional college textbooks with open digital texts for students at 15 of 23 of the commonwealth’s community colleges.

Funded by a $200,000 grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the program will allow students to download freely accessible and openly licensed digital textbooks customized to fit each school’s curriculum.

The idea was based in part by Tidewater Community College’s all-Open Educational Resources (OER) or “Z-Degree” program, a business degree that uses open educational materials. Tidewater and Northern Virginia Community College started using OER textbooks in 2013. Over the last three years, more than 100 faculty members at 16 community colleges have created more than 70 open courses.

“Technology is changing the way we access information, making it faster and less expensive without compromising quality. We owe it to our students… to bring that flexibility to every course that we can,” said Glenn DuBois, chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges in a statement.

VCCS has over 273,000 students enrolled each year, making it one of the largest college systems in the United States.

Posted on May 26, 2015 at 12:14 PM0 comments


Energy infrastructure critical in disaster response

Local gov: Energy infrastructure critical in disaster response

What: “Local Government Energy/Environment Technology Priorities for 2015,” a survey by the Public Technology Institute that suggests the top priorities for local officials involved in energy, environmental, sustainability and technology are the same as government IT managers': funding, aging infrastructure and disaster mitigation and preparedness.  Issues following closely behind are security, the role of GIS and keeping up with technology and workload pressures.

When asked, “What did we miss that keeps you up at night,” respondents cited the failure of information and data sharing between utilities and municipalities,  environmental management systems, keeping up with technology updates and statewide consistency in renewable energy standards.

The respondents serve more than 40 million people, and come from energy, environment, public works, sustainability and facilities officials from cities and counties across the country.

Why:  Because local governments are first responders, they appreciate the “interdependencies between energy systems and communications, transportation, emergency management and other infrastructure systems that are critical at the local level of government,” the report said.

After Super Storm Sandy proved the vulnerability (and expense) of energy supply and distribution systems, local government officials pushed disaster mitigation and preparedness to the top of their priorities list.

Energy assurance planning is more expensive if local governments have to develop plans in the wake of a disaster. According to PTI, such preparedness supports energy efficiency and sustainability efforts because energy enables the finance, communication, health and transportation systems that stabilize and protect the public in times of crisis.

Based on these results, PTI exhorted local agencies to raise the profile of their energy, environment and sustainability departments, continue to grow educational initiatives and create a research agenda for 2015 forward.

Get more: Find the full report here.

Posted on May 19, 2015 at 1:13 PM0 comments


NY pilots program to teach English via mobile phones

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a program that will give English language learners free access to self-paced audio and text lessons through their mobile phones.

The program, which is the first of its kind in the United States, is aimed at immigrants who do not have the time or the access to learn English through a traditional classroom, a computer or the Internet.

The New York State Office for New Americans will partner with Cell-Ed to run the program. When learners call a Cell-ED number from their cell phone, they can listen to a lesson, then review the lesson via text and text-back responses. The program is free to the learner (excluding any minute or text charges from  user’s mobile phone provider) and available 24 hours a day.

 “This innovative program will assist the Latino community in accessing English language instruction at a time that works best for them.” said Jose Calderon, president of the Hispanic Federation. “Through Cell Ed, immigrants interested in increasing their English language abilities will not have to miss out on instruction by utilizing this tool that will work around their schedules. We are extremely excited to offer Cell Ed to our network of ESL service providers.”

The program will initially be launched in the Finger Lakes and North Country regions of upstate New York, and downstate in the Hudson Valley and in New York City.

Posted on May 18, 2015 at 1:14 PM0 comments