Crisis Time

USDS reports on recent projects; Sunlight Foundation presents Trump transparency record; and more.


  • This is civic tech: In Detroit, the Bring Your Own Device Technology Training program is working to close the digital divide by helping residents of the city’s Lower East Side learn everything from “how do I set up email” to “what is the cloud and what happens when I put stuff in it,” reports Meghan Urisko, Microsoft Chicago civic tech fellow.

  • Apply: Mozilla and the National Science Foundation are putting up $2 million in prize money “for wireless solutions that get people online after disasters or that connect communities lacking reliable Internet access.”

  • The Pop Culture Collaborative has announced its first round of grants, giving $700,000 to Caring Across Generations, Color of Change, Define American, Harness, United We Dream, Wise Entertainment and futurePerfect Lab.

  • Here’s the U.S. Digital Service’s July 2017 report to Congress, detailing its most recent high-priority, high-impact projects.

  • The Chicago Leadership Alliance has launched GoCivic, a new website “designed to match would-be volunteers and donors with local nonprofits, and connect nonprofits with each other,” reports Lisa Bertagnoli for Crain’s Chicago Business.

  • This is not civic tech: The executive director of Ushahidi, the Kenyan online crowd-reporting platform, Daudi Were, is at the center of a sexual harassment scandal, with at least 11 women, including Angela Kabari, one of his employees, detailing a wide range of inappropriate behavior. Five days ago, the organization’s board suspended him after finding him guilty of gross misconduct, but Kabari writes that she believes several board members were negligent in their handling of her complaint.

  • Trump watch: Get ready, the White House isn’t just exploring ways to hobble special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, it is also looking into how it may use the president’s pardon power, report the Washington Post’s Carol D. Leonnig, Ashley Parker, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger.

  • “We are on the brink of an authoritarian crisis that will make the firing of FBI Director James Comey seem quaint in hindsight,” writes Brian Beutler in The New Republic. That’s because the special counsel is looking into Trump’s business dealings, and as we all know, Trump has built a wall around his empire. Waiting for the 2018 elections for a change to come might be too late, Beutler argues, because of ongoing efforts to purge voters rolls.

  • Six months into the Trump Administration, the Sunlight Foundation has issued a report on his transparency record: “this is a secretive administration, allergic to transparency, ethically compromised, and hostile to the essential role that journalism plays in a democracy.”

  • With the White House insisting that its daily news briefings no longer be filmed or recorded, a reporter named Ksenija Pavlovic finally broke that protocol Wednesday by using Periscope to live-stream the briefing audio, as Callum Borchers reports for The Washington Post.

  • According to Jonathan Swan’s reporting for Axios, Trump is going to name financier Anthony Scaramucci as his new communications director. Scaramucci, who served on the Trump transition’s executive committee, demonstrated his communications skills back in December, after being asked by the Washington Post’s Drew Harrell about Trump’s plans for separating himself from his business conflicts. He said, “At age 70, after having this phenomenal life and building this phenomenal business in this great tower, he’s going to be a hundred percent focused on working for the American people and for the United States.”

  • If you want read one fresh thing about Trump, make it Sara Robinson’s essay in Rewire on his sensitivity at being laughed at. She writes, “…when we hear Trump say, ‘They’re laughing at us,’ it’s almost certainly because he’s about to put forth a policy explicitly designed to assert dominance or act out rage, abusing the vast powers of his office to brutally stuff some inferior group or nation back into its perceived place because they have dared to challenge him. Trump’s fear of being laughed at is the clearest possible sign that we have installed an abuser-in-chief in the White House.”

  • In Poland, hundreds of thousands of people are marching in the streets to keep their judicial system independent of the presidency. Will Americans do the same here?

  • Opposition watch: Brian Forde, a former senior technology adviser to the Obama White House, has added his name to the list of candidates challenging Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA) in 2018, the Los Angeles Times reports.

  • The Voices for Internet Freedom Coalition, which is led by and for people of color and comprised of civil rights, human rights, racial justice, public interest and community organizations, as well as diverse media makers, has written the FCC in support of the current net neutrality rules. As it points out, without the internet, groups like Black Girls Code would never have gotten off the ground, powerfully arguing: “The open Internet is our digital oxygen.”

  • Future, imperfect: A House subcommittee voted Wednesday to allow up to 100,000 self-driving cars onto America’s road, and April Glaser argues in Slate that Congress should slow down and establish “benchmarks for what it means for self-driving technology to be designed safely.”

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