Saturday, August 1, 2015

Civic Hacking In The News: August 01, 2015

Here are a few recent online items relevant to civic hacking that caught my eye during the week of August 1, 2015. Click on the item headlines to read ones of particular interest to you...

Django Girls one year later
“...the first day of EuroPython 2015 began with an engaging and well-received...history of a project that got its start just a year ago when the first Django Girls workshop was held at EuroPython 2014 in Berlin. The two women who started the project, Ola Sitarska and Ola Sendecka, spoke about how the workshop to teach women about Python and the Django web framework all came together...It all started when Sitarska and Sendecka met while organizing DjangoCon 2013… 
The story was about "Liz", who is a squirrel who is fascinated by technology and programming in particular. As she makes her way into the "forest of technology", though, she finds that there are few squirrels who are interested in technology. In fact, most of those who are learning about technology in the forest were all very similar to each other, but much different from her. 
In fact, the others were badgers, she discovered. She wanted to fit in, but always stood out from the badger pack. They were generally nice, and she had nothing against badgers, but she could feel the eyes of the badgers on her whenever she entered a room and she was often "complimented" with lines like: "You are not like other squirrels" or "You are pretty good at technology for a squirrel..."
The Django Girls project highlights how attainable it is these days to launch an impactful  project in our connected tech world even if it isn’t initiated by a major corporation. Although Django Girls activities aren’t strictly or necessarily civic hacking, those activities would definitely be complementary to civic hacking events. A NE Wisconsin Django Girls workshop could easily incubate a few more local civic hackers. To learn more about the topic, check out the links below and do more searching with your best friend Google.

Use Your Coding Skills to Help Solve Civic Problems at Code for America
If you have programming or design skills, you can use that talent to help improve communities by working on projects for city governments. Code for America has been around for several years, building open source software aimed to improve government services—apps like a public school finder for parents in Boston and a streamlined small business permit applications site for entrepreneurs in Santa Cruz. The non-profit provides a way for citizens to get more involved in their government. If you have an hour, you can use the Civic Tech Issue Finder to find open projects...”
The Civic Tech Issue Finder from Code for America (CfA) is one way to get involved with civic hacking where there’s an existing need. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t want to create a project from scratch or doesn’t want to have to come up with a specific task to work on, check out what projects need help by using the Civic Tech Issue Finder. To learn more about it, check out the CfA blog post about the topic.

Ask and Offer Site Connects City of Portland to Local Startups
When the Portland Development Commission considered shaking up traditional municipal RFPs two years ago, the city development agency hoped to be able to tap into the city’s early-stage...startups... 
One product of the outreach effort was a mobile ticketing app developed by GlobeSherpa and currently in use by TriMet, the city bureau in charge of public transit in Portland. This was civic hacking in action: TriMet was interested in creating a mobile ticketing app, but didn’t know who the best provider would be... 
The City of Portland’s answer to that question became the Portland-based Switchboard. Co-founded by Mara Zepeda and Sean Lerner in 2013, the startup builds simple websites that are crosses between Craigslist and the community-organizing site Neighborland. About a dozen universities, nonprofits and high schools across the U.S. use Switchboard. Portland is the first city government client.”
The “Ask and Offer” story is another viewpoint of Portland, Oregon’s use of the Switchboard service described in the DHMN Civic Hacks post “‘Asks’ & ‘Offers’ -- Community-Builder And CivicTech Marketplace.”

Gauging Civic Wellbeing
There’s been much emphasis on the smart city, using data to analyze efficiency and manage sensory understanding of infrastructure, but we continue to see an evolution of emotional intelligence coming from government, from Louisville’s Compassionate City Campaign to San Francisco’s emphasis on delight, and now Santa Monica’s The Wellbeing Project, an index that takes into account health, place, community, learning and economic opportunity. 
According to its site, The Wellbeing Project will “harness the power of data to provide a shared understanding of our community’s strengths and needs, encouraging collaboration among city leaders, local organizations, and residents to improve our collective wellbeing.” Supported by a $1,000,000 grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the city developed a Wellbeing Index and released a report of its findings this past April...”
Launching a NE Wisconsin Wellbeing Project would be a fun and effective way to introduce many more residents of our region to civic hacking. We could leverage the learnings and tools from the Santa Monica effort and similar projects around the country. Watch the Santa Monica video -- if you’re interested in civic hacking, it’s well worth a few minutes of your time.

Mapbox raised $52.55 million: Building The Whole Mapping Stack
We're creating the building blocks for a complete mapping stack. This extends way beyond a map. Today we closed $52.55 million in Series B financing to enable us to expand this stack...and hire the best people in the world to do it... 
This is more than just creating the best mapping platform: we embrace open source, invest in open data communities, and make a positive impact every step of the way. We're building tools that are going to change how people move around cities, how scientists understand the planet, and how applications do anything with location. 
...We bootstrapped the company mapping elections in Afghanistan, tracking malaria in central Africa, and working with the World Bank to open its data -- these roots are why we build. By the time we took our first round of outside capital, the team was already 30 strong and was powering all the maps on Foursquare...And it has been awe-inspiring to build on this foundation, watching the team triple in just the last 18 months and seeing our core culture strengthen with each new teammate...”
I included the Mapbox funding story in case any of you civic hackers or GIS / mapping aficionados reading this want to consider contacting Mapbox to explain why you’d make a great addition to their team.

U.S. Decides to Retaliate Against China’s Hacking
The Obama administration has determined that it must retaliate against China for the theft of the personal information of more than 20 million Americans from the databases of the Office of Personnel Management, but it is still struggling to decide what it can do without prompting an escalating cyberconflict...President Obama, clearly seeking leverage, has asked his staff to come up with a more creative set of responses. One of the conclusions we’ve reached is that we need to be a bit more public about our responses, and one reason is deterrence,” said one senior administration official...James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence...predicted that the number and sophistication of hacking aimed at the United States would worsen “until such time as we create both the substance and psychology of deterrence.”...Admiral Rogers stressed the need for “creating costs” for attackers responsible for the intrusion...Other options discussed inside the administration include retaliatory operations, perhaps designed to steal or reveal to the public information as valuable to the Chinese government as the security-clearance files on government employees were to Washington. 
One of the most innovative actions discussed...involves finding a way to breach the so-called great firewall, the complex network of censorship and control that the Chinese government keeps in place to suppress dissent inside the country. The idea would be to demonstrate to the Chinese leadership that the one thing they value most — keeping absolute control over the country’s political dialogue — could be at risk if they do not moderate attacks on the United States...”
I find this article fascinating in a not-so-good deathmatch way. It doesn’t seem like the US can do nothing if they’ve accurately identified the people who performed the successful digital attack on the US OPM system. (See my post “Cybersecurity & Civic Hacking # 7: Data Breaches” for more info about the OPM data breach.) However, among other thorny issues for US officials involved in evaluating option for ‘retaliation’ to consider is the glass house problem. First, the US is probably more dependent on the Internet and digital systems than any other country in the world and has a lot more to lose than anybody else. Second, I don’t think any knowledgeable US cybersecurity official is totally confident the US can withstand a determined and prolonged cyberattack by one or several skilled and well-funded countries or groups. And third, the US has likely launched at least one cyberattack on some other country’s digital systems.

A slightly disappointing aspect of this issue is that the general public (including me) will never know the details or extent of any US retaliation for the OPM breach. But this particular cyberattack will help cyberpunk and digital thriller book authors sell a few more books…


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