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With New York City, our home, now in the epicenter of the Great Pandemic, here’s the single best guide we’ve found to find help and plug in, from NYC United Against Coronavirus: Bitly.com/nyccoronavirus.
In case you missed it, Civic Hall’s physical community space is now going to be closed through at least the end of May. Our team is continuing to work remotely on projects such as the Civic Tech Field Guide, Civicist, and First Post (the very newsletter you are reading right now), and we’re planning to increase online event offerings now that it is clear it will be some time before we can gather again in person. Speaking of which, if you are reading this newsletter because someone forwarded it to you and can afford to become a subscriber, click the link at the bottom and sign up. We appreciate it!
Civic tech responds to the Great Pandemic: Say hello to the U.S. Digital Response for COVID-19, a loose network of data scientists, user-design experts and civic-minded technologists that has formed to offer its assistance to state and local government agencies seeking coronavirus help. (If you’ve worked in the US Digital Service, 18F or Code for America, you probably know about this already because the people at its core, like Cori Zafek, Jennifer Anastasoff, Jen Pahlka, and Robin Carnahan, are all veterans of working with each other.)
The good folks at Loomio, the online decision-making platform, have published a new “remote working guide” for groups new to virtual-only work.
We’re seeing a bump in new platforms seeking to centralize the “get help” and “give help” functions, like MutualAid.World and Aid.Sumofus.org, but as you see from the latter, the problem with these tools is the needs on requests and offers of help are too idiosyncratic for a viable clearinghouse to coalesce.
DevPost is hosting #BuildforCOVID19, a global online hackathon. The deadline to submit projects is March 30. You can submit a production-ready prototype, or an “awesome proof of concept.” The effort is being propelled by a host of big tech companies and was launched with a push by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Having sent its beleaguered and over-traumatized army of human content moderators home on paid leave due to the pandemic, Facebook is now struggling to contain disinformation and other harmful forms of content using artificial intelligence alone, as Elizabeth Dwoskin and Nitasha Tiku report for the Washington Post.
Ethel’s Club, a co-working space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn launched by Naj Austin as a “social wellness clubhouse for people of color,” is physically closed but working to keep going as a digital community hub, Geri Stengel reports for Forbes.
O’Reilly Media has announced that it is shutting down its tech conference business after 25 years of operation. Laura Baldwin, its president, writes, “Without understanding when this global health emergency may come to an end, we can’t plan for or execute on a business that will be forever changed as a result of this crisis. With large technology vendors moving their events completely on-line, we believe the stage is set for a new normal moving forward when it comes to in-person events.”
Data for our times: Elucd, a civic tech start-up that was born at Civic Hall, has been using its technology to track public perceptions and self-reported behavior changes in the US on a daily basis as the pandemic spreads. Right now most Americans (55%) are optimistic that the current school and business shutdowns and other forms of social distancing will be over in 1-4 months; 24% think they will be over in 4-6 months; 13% think they will be over by the end of 2020; and the remaining 7% don’t have their heads up their asses. (Sorry, Mom!)
CityMapper, a transportation app that uses open data and mobile payment technology, is posting up-to-date data showing how much various cities are moving, compared to normal times. Two weeks ago, 57% of San Francisco was in motion; now it’s just 6%. Two weeks ago, 67% of New York City was in motion, now it’s just 7%. The data is drawn from CityMapper’s “trips planned” function, and the estimates are based on previous data showing that those correlate well to trips taken.
The Centers for Disease Control’s Social Vulnerability Index offers a hyper-local map scoring every census tract to help emergency response planners and public health officials map the communities that will most likely need support before, during, and after a hazardous event.
Hard thoughts: If you have the time and inclination to read one long and careful essay that explains in great detail where we are right now, make it The Hammer and The Dance by Tomas Pueyo.
Siva Vaidhyanathan explains in the Guardian why the choice between flattening the curve and “restarting” the economy is a false, and deeply immoral, one.
Maciej Ceglowski argues that once the initial outbreak of coronavirus is contained, it’s time to harness the surveillance infrastructure in the United States to do contact tracing and enforce self-quarantining. He writes: I am a privacy activist, typing this through gritted teeth, but I am also a human being like you, watching a global calamity unfold around us. What is the point of building this surveillance architecture if we can’t use it to save lives in a scary emergency like this one?”
Stating that the US is “woefully unprepared for disinformation wars,” the German Marshall Fund’s Karen Kornbluh, Ellen Goodman and Eli Weiner have released a major new policy brief on “Safeguarding Democracy Against Disinformation.”
End times: “I look out the window, the curve doesn’t look flatter, to me, to-oo me.” Go ahead, sing along.
You are reading First Post, a twice-a-week digest of news and analysis of the world of civic tech, brought to you by Civic Hall, NYC’s community center for civic tech. If you are reading this because someone forwarded it to you, please become a subscriber ($10/m) and support our work or sign up for our newsletter and stay connected with the #CivicTech community.