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Cities tap startups for innovation infusion

One way local government can get a tech infusion is by working with startups. Agencies get the opportunity to rethink their approaches to civic challenges and deliver services more efficiently, and startups get a chance to help solve civic challenges and tap into the government technology market.

The approach is getting some traction.

The Startup in Residence program, which was started by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee’s Office of Civic Innovation in 2014, is plotting a major expansion in 2018. With support from the Giving Back Fund’s City Innovation Foundation, STiR has added 11 more communities to its civic challenge process.

In the 16-week STiR program, local agencies post challenges related to transportation, emergency management, data transformation, open data, public safety, process automation and internet of things. Startups submit solutions to the various challenges, and city representatives review the applications, interview finalists and select a partner.

Startups agree to volunteer their time -- approximately one day a week -- to work with a government partner.

The latest challenges range from streamlining information workflows and digitizing public records to creating an alert system that will warn drives of flooded roadways and implementing a natural language interface like Siri or Alexa to access and translate relevant airport information.

Other state and local agencies have been experimenting with ways to make it easier to leverage business expertise for government.

Pittsburgh's PGH Lab, for example, provides a platform where local startups work with city departments for three months to test new technologies and services.

In November 2017, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced a program that would identify and evaluate businesses whose IT services and expertise could provide value to state agencies.   Selected companies will be invited present their innovations to state agencies.

About the Author

Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for GCN, covering cloud, cybersecurity and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.

Before joining GCN, Friedman was a reporter for Gambling Compliance, where she covered state issues related to casinos, lotteries and fantasy sports. She has also written for Communications Daily and Washington Internet Daily on state telecom and cloud computing. Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.

Friedman can be contacted at or follow her on Twitter @SaraEFriedman.

Click here for previous articles by Friedman.

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