The Future of Civic Technology

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In the coming weeks, we will see a flurry of post-election opinions and predicted changes resulting from the recent U.S. election. I will leave that to those with far more experience and insight into this year’s voting data.

As someone who has spent the past few years working closely with government leaders throughout the U.S. in order to harness emerging technologies and data to make civic services and support more accessible to more people, my own mission and vision remain clear .

We must continue to develop and share the technology and tools that can deliver better self-service access to the information and services we need within our own communities, urban or rural, that empower us to make informed decisions, interact with our government, and improve our own economic mobility.

Today, people living in cities are still accessing civic technology for instant information about their transit systems to make decisions about their commute to work. Parents are still launching mobile applications to access information about the schedules, lunch menus, and even notices of frightening lock-downs at their children’s public schools. And business owners are still using today’s technology to not only serve their customers but to interact with the government entities which regulate their companies.

Cities all over the country are continuing to open up more data and to deploy more automated tools which allow citizens self-service options to apply for permits, pay fees, and report issues to their government leaders.

The industries of Civic Tech and Gov Tech were barely getting started only a decade ago, and thanks to the rapid expansion of technology and data, these industries are now mature enough to step up and address the bigger challenges of resolving the rural and poverty gaps in access to reliable, affordable internet and to scale existing user-friendly technology platforms which can empower more ordinary citizens to create their own solutions which address their unique barriers to economic growth, stability and security.

Through our work at APPCityLife we have already helped cities deploy mobile apps and integrated smart technologies to make services more available to citizens. We have worked with the youth and mayor of Albuquerque to deploy a mobile app to track one million acts of kindness.

And by collaborating with organizations including the Living Cities Foundation, the McCune Foundation and the City of Albuquerque, we are nearing the launch of a new integrated technology solution and mobile app, TrepConnect, which will empower small business owners and entrepreneurs to independently learn about and access the wide variety of available services within their own community so that more business owners can achieve their own economic stability and mobility.

I am especially thrilled that this solution has been designed to scale and to be shared with other cities and rural communities, so that the efforts and funding into this pilot project can allow other regions to now use the same solution to support their own economic growth through small businesses and entrepreneurship.

I am encouraged to know that with the continued support of foundations and investors focused on using technology to improve the operations of government and access to information and services, those of us working within Civic Tech and Government Tech can continue to use the tools at hand and to invent new technologies which can continue to improve the lives of Americans wherever we live.

This post originally appeared on Broad Insights via Inc

Girls Deserve to See Themselves as Heroes: Kudos to GoldieBlox

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I first met Debra Sterling, founder of GoldieBlox, when she spoke at the Women Entrepreneurs Festival in New York City a few years ago. Her vision of a toy company for girls that fostered engineering concepts inspired me then, and her continued push to bring new role models and break down stereotypes continues to inspire. Her company’s newest video reminds us of how few heroes in media are female.

For those of you who think this is a tired, worn out mantra, I encourage you to watch this video of Jimmy Kimmel asking boys and girls about what would happen if a woman was president.

We need more women running for office, running companies, and we definitely need more Debra Sterlings creating companies like Goldieblox. It is why I was so excited to see Akamee Baca Malta, founder of As Girls Grow, an Albuquerque-based startup, at our national conference for women entrepreneurs and leaders, HauteCon 2015. Like the founder of GoldieBlox, Akamee is using her talents and expertise as an engineer to create play-based, STEM-friendly products for young girls. She attended the conference thanks to a scholarship from Nusenda, a New Mexico-based credit union which recently won a national award for their creative approach to delivering wider access to capital to those with no or poor credit scores through peer-based lending. Nusenda covered the cost of attendance to HauteCon 2015 for ten entrepreneurs, including Akamee, to ensure that cash-strapped startup founders were provided access to both the content and the networking opportunities available at an event created specifically to empower women leaders and entrepreneurs to achieve a higher level of success.

Students from Sandia Preparatory School take the stage with Hautepreneurs Cofounder Jessica Eaves Mathews to talk about their STEAM project. The students worked with Mathews, their school, and Central New Mexico Community College Makerspace to design flowers in Corel Draw, print them using the CNM 3-D Printer, and attach the flowers to the HauteCon banner hanging behind the girls in this photo.

Students from Sandia Preparatory School take the stage with Hautepreneurs Cofounder Jessica Eaves Mathews to talk about their STEAM project. The students worked with Mathews, their school, and Central New Mexico Community College Makerspace to design flowers in Corel Draw, print them using the CNM 3-D Printer, and attach the flowers to the HauteCon banner hanging behind the girls in this photo.

 

Until there is more gender balance among leading roles in entertainment, government and corporate leadership, our sons and daughters will continue to believe the stereotypes perpetuated in the news,  media, and their everyday lives. Until more women hold leadership positions – including the White House – and the toy aisles in our department stores provide more options for girls that defy cultural stereotypes, we need to see more videos like GoldieBlox reminding us that yes, indeed, girls deserve to see themselves as heroes.

One Reason We Can All Celebrate The Outcome Of This Election

In December of 1991, Algeria’s National Liberation Front, cancelled elections after the first round to prevent victory by the Islamic Salvation Front. The government took control of the country, forcing out president Chadili Bendjedid, banning the opposing party and arresting thousands of its members. A coups d’état ensued, resulting in the loss of life for what some estimate to be as high as  200,000 people, including the assassination of more than seventy journalists, before the eventual surrender of the Islamic Salvation Front.

Since the beginning of the world’s collected history, coups d’état and coup attempts have been a part of the shift in power of governments, many coming with an appalling loss of life and ensuing instability in the country’s leadership and economy.

As the results of our country’s election begin rolling in, it is clear that almost half of the voters who participated in the 2012 general election have been disfranchised by the outcome. Early numbers indicate that while the electoral college votes have solidly pointed to Mr. Obama’s selection as our country’s president for the next four years, the popular vote is divided almost down the middle. An article by Jeff Zeleny and Jim Rutenberg published in the New York Times on November 7, 2012, describes the deep divide of the popular vote that put Obama in power for a second term. “Mr. Obama, 51, faces governing in a deeply divided country and a partisan-rich capital, where Republicans retained their majority in the House and Democrats kept their control of the Senate. His re-election offers him a second chance that will quickly be tested, given the rapidly escalating fiscal showdown.” It isn’t the first time our country has found itself deeply divided, either. As far back as 1824 when John Quincy Adams won the election, he only had 31% of the popular vote. Similarly, Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860 with only 40% of the popular vote, and when John F. Kennedy became president in 1960, he did so with only 49.72% of the popular vote. And in our last election, when America made history by choosing their first black president to lead the country, over 47% of the country chose John McCain instead.

And here is the remarkable part: not one of those elections resulted in a coup by the opposing party or instability in our government. Transitions in power commence every four years without violence. We do not fear an impending coups d’état after each election, nor do we fear a suspension of elections. Citizens don’t stay awake at night wondering if military tanks will roll into the streets or that they will be dragged out of homes never to be seen again because of supporting the losing candidate.

It is one of the reasons why I am grateful to be a citizen of the United States. I have the right to voice my political beliefs if I so choose. I have the precious right to cast my vote in every election to make my voice heard (and truly do not understand anyone who has the right and with such cavalier disregard chooses not to participate). I can have confidence that whether I like the outcome of an election or not, my country will continue on a path of stability. The way I see it, that is reason for celebrating the outcome of this election, no matter which candidate won.