John Paul Farmer

Director of Technology & Civic Innovation

John Paul Farmer
Meet John
John Paul Farmer believes in the combined power of technology and cross-sector collaboration to drive positive change throughout society. As the Director of Microsoft’s Technology & Civic Innovation team in New York City, John leads hands-on engagement with governments, non-profits, for-profits, academic institutions, startups, and civic hackers so that they can do more good together than they could apart. Previously, John served as the Senior Advisor for Innovation in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, where he spearheaded the President’s innovation agenda. Under President Barack Obama, he co-founded and led the Presidential Innovation Fellows program, which attracts top innovators and entrepreneurs from the private sector for focused tours of duty in government, in order to make game-changing progress on projects of national importance. He also served in the Administration as Senior Advisor for Healthcare Reform, working on healthcare information technology such as Blue Button, delivery system reform and economic analyses. Previously, John worked in the investment industry for Credit Suisse and Lehman Brothers, where he built a new business unit from the ground up. He played professional baseball as a shortstop in the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves minor league systems, compiling a .344 career batting average. John holds an MBA with honors from the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University and an AB with honors from Harvard University. He grew up in Pittsburgh before moving to Manhattan over a decade ago.

The Endless [Civic Tech] Summer

While the calendar (although perhaps not the thermometer) tells us that summer is winding down, there are still plenty of events to join in on while avoiding the current heat wave. From community launch events to AI hackathons, you can be sure that there’s always something happening to keep your mind stimulated and your after-work hours occupied. Since joining Microsoft NY, I’ve kept my eye out for new and emerging organizations to expand the breadth of my civic tech horizons. Here are a few organizations I’ve been able to collaborate with during the past week:

Cornell Tech — Women in Technology and Entrepreneurship in New York

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Cornell Tech’s recently launched Women in Technology and Entrepreneurship in New York (WiTNY) initiative seeks to encourage and guide young women entering higher education and entrepreneurship in technology. As part of the initiative, WiTNY hosts a two-week ‘Summer Studio’ program modeled after Cornell’s curriculum, introducing students to real-world skills like software engineering, product development, product ideation, and design thinking. I spoke on a panel to about 40 soon-to-be CUNY women about my day-to-day as a software engineer, workflows used, project developments with CivicGraph.io and Microsoft Translator, and my journey into computing. Mentorship and outreach is something I’ve found to be particularly helpful in the development of my own career, so it’s terrific to be given opportunities to pass along knowledge to students as passionate, driven, and inquisitive as those at WiTNY.

CodeNewbie NYC

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Saron Yitbarek, A former team member and eternal friend of Microsoft NY, launched the New York chapter of CodeNewbie, an incredibly supportive community of new and established technical professionals. The theme revolved around ‘Keeping it 100’ in celebration of the release of CodeNewbie’s 100th podcast episode. As part of the event, I gave a brief keynote on a topic that I’m a CodeNewbie in myself: Using data for space exploration as a member of the 2016 class of NASA Datanauts. During my talk, I presented a workflow on creating a web-based orrery using various open source tools. Other keynotes included a discussion on cybersecurity and a testimonial by John Resig, the creator of JQuery, on the benefits that’ve resulted from his choice to program on a daily basis. CodeNewbie also took the opportunity to announce its first-ever conference, CodeLand, which is scheduled for April 2017.

General Assembly & Clarifai — Artificial Intelligence Hackathon

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Big thanks to our friends at Clarifai for letting us use this image

Last Saturday, Clarifai and General Assembly teamed up to host their first Artificial Intelligence hackathon. I held a seat on the judges panel and reviewed projects responding to the satirically-dystopian theme requiring participants to “make something with AI that will advance the inevitable robot apocalypse”. The projects were equally as silly. Here are a few that stood out:

  • Miss-Direction: A mapping engine that navigates you to a random location within a few blocks of your destination.
  • Giggle: A search engine returning the least relevant results for a given search query.
  • CutiePai: A dating app that scraped your social media accounts and found your most compatible matches based on similar tagging.
  • Safehouse: A smarthome application using facial recognition to wreak havoc on your appliances while you’re distracted.

There were 28 teams, all of whom put forward incredibly witty submissions. Needless to say, it was overwhelmingly difficult to narrow down the submission pool and decide on winners!

Through events like these, I am constantly inspired and reminded to think creatively, work diligently, and have fun. Every time I walk into a space allowing me to contribute knowledge and connect with brilliant individuals, I’m reminded why New York is known for its top-tier workforce. The fact that these opportunities were spaced within just one week’s time demonstrates the frequency and accessibility of events, which is unique to the New York lifestyle. As a proud New Yorker, that’s why I know I can be excited for what’s yet to come!

Reflections on a Summer of Civic Tech

Well, it has been an incredibly rewarding summer working with the Microsoft Civic Tech & Innovation team!  I’ve learned a lot about the tools and programs that people in New York City and elsewhere are building to address various civic challenges. As my fellowship wraps up, I wanted to share a bit about what I worked on:

The two primary projects I worked on were the Civic Graph and Microsoft Translator.  

For the Civic Graph, I contributed over 900 lines of Python (and a bit of R) code to the Microsoft-curated codebase. In addition to preparing API documentation (viewable here), I spearheaded a project to automate data collection for Civic Graph.

Why is this important?  

Civic Graph offers a unique visualization of the civic technology ecosystem. It contains hundreds of nodes and tracks connection-types between them. In its current state as a crowdsourced knowledge base, however, the application captures only a small subset of the actors and connections in the civic tech space. A few weeks into my fellowship, I asked “How might we make Civic Graph a bit smarter?”

With this in mind, I developed four tools — which I like to think of as “building blocks” — to improve the data quality (i.e. accuracy, completeness of data stored) as well as automate aspects of the data collection process. You can view everything I built in this repository.

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I started by scraping the archives of Civicist and TechPresident, two core civic tech publications which together span 2004—Present. Next, I analyzed the scraped content by extracting named entities (e.g. people, organizations, companies, places). I utilized an open-source library called spaCy, which allowed me to tag and categorize entities based on part of speech and named entity type (e.g. person, place, organization). From Civicist and TechPresident alone, over 70,000 entities were extracted!

In order to build a true (and useful) semantic graph from the natural text I had scraped, I needed a way of identifying, extracting, and categorizing relationships between named entities. To do this, I implemented a classifier in Python using a Supervised Learning Model to label tokenized text data according to five initial categories: funding, data, employment, collaboration, location. These categories were chosen because they are the types of connections currently represented in Civic Graph. I trained the classifiers using Support Vector Machines, and used the content scraped from Civicist and TechPresident as my test data. Finally, I designed a pipeline outlining how a future civic tech fellow can integrate my classification system with the existing Civic Graph.

For Microsoft Translator, my primary role was to help with project development and organization.  

Microsoft’s Translator is a machine learning-based voice-to-voice speech translation technology that enables two or more people speaking two or more languages to have a conversation using a common device such as a smartphone or tablet.

Our team collaborated with the Microsoft Speech Translation Research and Product teams as well as with various providers of citizen services in New York City. We tested all features of the Microsoft Translator application with the Microsoft Translator Project Manager to explore the product’s functionality, identify optimal civic use cases, and provide useful feedback to the Product team. I also prepared memos outlining goals, stakeholders, and project timelines for upcoming pilots that are expected to run this fall.

Other work:

In addition to the two projects, I also supported the civic tech community through presentations and event-organizing. I co-presented to 24 Chinese delegates visiting Civic Hall about the Microsoft Translator project and my experience as a summer fellow. Although the delegates brought a translator with them, I used the presentation as an opportunity to practice my Mandarin-speaking skills!

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Me (right) and John Paul Farmer presenting to the delegates.

Additionally, our team visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art to present to the Director of the Met MediaLab and some folks from the TED Fellows Program. We also presented to Microsoft CELA (Corporate External and Legal Affairs)’s Regional Director for Southeast Asia about our team’s current projects. Finally, together with 18F’s Aidan Feldman and civic tech fellow Briana Vecchione, I co-organized and hosted weekly “Hacker Hours” at Civic Hall, a two-hour period where folks at Civic Hall and outside members of the tech community can share what they are working on and get help on technical projects.  Interested in attending? More information here!

The Civic Tech Fellowship has been a wonderful opportunity to participate in collaborative efforts between Microsoft and the City of New York, to work with talented and passionate people, to develop my technical skillset, and to observe how Microsoft is continuing to build a strong presence in the civic technology space.  I am excited to follow the progress of Microsoft Translator, Civic Graph, and the other projects on which fellows around the country are working!

Quadratic Voting: Civic Tech for Eminent Domain

Historians say we owe the industrial predominance of England over France to it, but fifty years earlier Jane Jacobs called it “unjust involuntary subsidies…fantastically wasteful of city economic assets.”  Whatever you feel about eminent domain, the government taking of private land to avoid holdouts against development projects, you probably feel it strongly.  Jointly with my colleagues Jerry Green, Scott Duke Kominers and Steven P. Lalley I am working to harness the latest ideas from economic theory and technology to find a solution that almost everyone can be happy with.

I first started thinking about eminent domain during the summer of 2007, when I lived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil by the slopes of Rocinha, the enormous favela (slum) perched on hills with one of the world’s most beautiful views.  I couldn’t understand why the slums remained there; couldn’t all of the residents be much better off if they were moved out of their poverty in exchange for a share of the enormous income that could be earned building luxury developments over that view?  My wife, and later an expert on squatter settlements, Alisha Holland explained to me that the problem was the lack of eminent domain: given the crime in the favelas, Brazil’s elite would never move in until all squatters could be removed.  But because the squatters lacked formal title to their land, no mechanism existed for compensating them and any effort to evict them would meet with violent political resistance. Sharing Alisha’s sympathy for the inhabitants, I wanted to find a solution that would work for everyone.

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The basic problem was that if every resident was given a veto over the project, it would be impossible to ever carry it out, as there would always be some individual who could hold the whole process up.  On the other hand, if the community were given no right to refuse the government, there would be no legitimacy to the action or projection of property rights.  The natural solution is to allow the community of owners to take a vote on whether to accept an offer made to all of them.  

However, such a vote can be very unfair.  A developer might choose to strategically target 50% of the landholders that have small and low-value plots of lands, make them juicy offers and thereby get the land on the cheap.  For a system to be fair, it would have to protect the interests of those who strongly oppose a deal.  The transaction should only go through if, in total, it made the sellers better off.  

To solve this problem, I devised a new voting system, called Quadratic Voting, in which individuals can buy additional votes on an issue at an increasing cost. One vote costs $12=$1, two votes cost $22=$4, three votes $32=$9, etc. This allows a minority strongly affected by a project to express its feelings, but only if the issue is extremely important to them.  My work has shown this is the only rule that causes people to vote in proportion to how much the issue matters to them, thus ensuring that the sale will go through exactly when it benefits the sellers overall.

poli-votingObviously, a quadratic function isn’t easy for most people to grasp, any more than are the powerful algorithms underlying services like Uber.  That’s where the power of technology to force people to understand only what is necessary and let computers do the rest comes in.  A user interface represents the cost of influencing the choice visually with sliding bars, moving at an increasingly rapid pace as votes are cast.  Beyond eminent domain, Quadratic Voting has a variety of other uses in cities and politics more broadly, allowing citizens to find compromises that allow them to have more say on the issues most important to them in exchange for letting their fellow citizens have their way on the issues more important to them.

By bringing the power of civic tech to some of the most contentions issues of local government, Microsoft is paving the way for the happier, wealthier, more harmonious and functional cities of tomorrow.

glen-weylE. Glen Weyl is a Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research New York City, a Visiting Senior Research Scholar at the Yale Economics Department and Law School and an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow.  He was valedictorian of his undergraduate class at Princeton in 2007 and received his PhD in economics also from Princeton a year later.

Civic Tech Summer: August in NYC

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Where did the summer go? With the time flying by, we’re grasping on to the last of the hot summer months with all the civic tech you could hope for. Our top picks for the month:

August 2

Tech Tuesday Open House at Hack Manhattan

Tech Tuesday is Hack Manhattan’s weekly general interest open house. Don’t worry, it’s not just about technology—any kind of project is welcome.

Tech Tuesday is the perfect opportunity to visit Hack Manhattan and check out what it’s all about.

Bring a project and get to work, use our tools, drink a homebrew beer, hang out, and draw on advice from our wonderful community. Visitors are strongly encouraged to bring a project to work on, or at least a laptop.

August 2

Bots are the New Apps: Building with the Bot Framework & Language Understanding

Join us for an exciting talk where we’ll explore the role of bots and conversation agents in various business scenarios. Come learn the fundamentals of the new Bot Framework, including the Bot Connector, the open source Bot Builder SDK for C# and Node.js, and the Language Understanding Intelligent Service (LUIS) from Microsoft Cognitive Services.

August 2

August 2016 NY Tech Meetup and Afterparty

Join fellow technologists for an evening of live demos from companies developing great technology in New York, followed by a networking afterparty.

August 4

Design and Tech Summer Bash

In partnership with The Next Web and Dumbo Bid, we are hosting a summer party under the archway on August 4th to celebrate the design and tech community and friends! Join us at Live at the Archway, a part of the Live at the Archway series, featuring a musical performance by Madame T and the Starlights with a set of whistleblowing train songs, sizzling summer swing and a journey of high camp performance that will make you want to dance and swoon! There will be beer, wine, and bites from The Lighthouse and epic scenery below the Manhattan Bridge. You will also have a chance to explore all the galleries open for the Dumbo Art Walk.

August 8

Big Data Infrastructure: Streaming, management & analysis with Redshift

As the volume and variety of data continues to grow more and more companies need to implement scalable big data infrastructure that transfers, manages, and analyzes their data in order to support analytics and insights. Developing, maintaining and scaling these technological terrors fall on the shoulders of developers.

Creating infrastructure that can deal with your unique needs, is user friendly, and scales with the influx of data that your company generates is a major hurdle to overcome. We will show you how to use cost-effective, and infinitely scalable data pipelines and management platforms built on top of Redshift, resulting in a simple but powerful data platform tailored to your company.

 

August 16

Digital Inclusion Summit: Innovating Civic Engagement

Join community members, technologists, non-profit organizations, and members of the New York City Council for conversations about the future of voter engagement, Participatory Budgeting, and other public initiatives!

August 17

Sourcest – Meet HR Tech leaders in NYC, Network and Grab Lunch

The free event is sponsored by Jobjet and will connect you with the best talent pros around town. Join us, meet new friends and check out a panel discussion over lunch. RSVP is required. Space is limited and will be reserved quickly.

August 17

Fixing Session

The Fixers’ Collective(fixerscollective.org) is holding a fixing session at Hack Manhattan!

Bring something to fix, or help fix things. All are welcome, whether you have something to fix or just want to observe and watch.

Microsoft Research: Using Data to Transform Engagement

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Microsoft Research (MSR) has an incredibly open research policy that allows its researchers to completely direct their work. This is effective for Microsoft for many reasons. First, an amazing caliber of researcher works at MSR, because they are attracted by the freedom. Second, once they get here they naturally gravitate to projects that take advantage of Microsoft data and platforms. But, rather than solving short-term problems, they have the freedom to dream up long-range solutions.

This is critical to Microsoft’s mission for two reasons. First, in constantly evolving technology landscape Microsoft needs to be evolving and MSR helps lead that path. Second, when customers commit to Microsoft’s platforms it is frequently a long-term commitment because it is expensive to move. They want to know that Microsoft is leading innovation, that they are trusted long-term technology partner. MSR provides a showcase for that.

I keep all of this in mind with my research. I was drawn to MSR because of the freedom it gives us and inevitably my research looked for ways to take advantage of Microsoft’s data and platforms. I study how and why people provide information, how to aggregate that information into market intelligence, and how decision makers consumer faster, larger, and more flexible market intelligence. I have been very fortunate to test large-scale polling infrastructure as MSN and Xbox. Where we can reach hundreds of thousands of respondents and revolutionize the impact of opt-in survey tools. I have been fortunate to explore the value of Bing query data and Cortana question answers. Where we can learn how people engage. Some of what I do helps improve these tools in the short run: make them more engaging, more effective at providing information, but much of what I do is think about how they will evolve over time in the years and decades to come.

A lot of the work I do is seen publicly, as demonstrations of where technology can head. In 2012 we had polling on the Xbox that is now seen as a primary example of how opt-in polling, from very unrepresentative respondents, can provide valuable market intelligence. Slowly that work has evolved into more generic infrastructure for Microsoft that we look forward to demonstrating publicly in the coming months. In 2012 we demonstrated some insights from social media and query data on Bing. Slowly that work has evolved into more generic infrastructure for Microsoft that is starting to power backend functionality for Microsoft.

A lot of the work I do is seen publicly, as demonstrations of where technology can head. In 2012 we had polling on the Xbox that is now seen as a primary example of how opt-in polling, from very unrepresentative respondents, can provide valuable market intelligence. Slowly that work has evolved into more generic infrastructure for Microsoft that we look forward to demonstrating publicly in the coming months. In 2012 we demonstrated some insights from social media and query data on Bing. Slowly that work has evolved into more generic infrastructure for Microsoft that is starting to power backend functionality for Microsoft.I have worked on many projects at Microsoft, but they ultimately share a common core. A very defined set of long-range academic theories on how data is collected from opt-in users and analyzed have been empirically tested in many different prototypes and now products. It is a process that can really only be nurtured in an environment like Microsoft Research, in a company like Microsoft.

I have worked on many projects at Microsoft, but they ultimately share a common core. A very defined set of long-range academic theories on how data is collected from opt-in users and analyzed have been empirically tested in many different prototypes and now products. It is a process that can really only be nurtured in an environment like Microsoft Research, in a company like Microsoft.


David-Rothschild

David Rothschild is an economist at Microsoft Research. He has a Ph.D. in applied economics from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. His primary body of work is on forecasting, and understanding public interest and sentiment. Related work examines how the public absorbs information. He has written extensively, in both the academic and popular press, on polling, prediction markets, social media and online data, and predictions of upcoming events; most of his popular work has focused on predicting elections and an economist take on public policy. He correctly predicted 50 of 51 Electoral College outcomes in February of 2012, average of 20 of 24 Oscars from 2013-6, and 15 of 15 knockout games in the 2014 World Cup.

The Nitty Gritty: keys to transformation personally and as a leader

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This weekend I participated in the Microsoft Challenge at the New York City Triathlon. This was an event sponsored by Microsoft for executives from across commercial business to train and compete in the triathlon while also networking and learning about Digital Transformation. It was a great experience and allowed me to reflect on the tools that leaders need to draw on to achieve personal and professional goals.

As I completed the triathlon yesterday and pushed to the finish these words came to mind:

“Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.” Angela Lee Duckworth

It stands out to me that GRIT can serve as a foundation for leaders to personally transform by maintaining passion and perseverance for their goals around optimal health and fitness. We can also apply that same discipline to stick to a long-term goal despite setbacks as we lead our businesses to digitally transform.

STUDIES SHOW…

When psychologist Angela Duckworth studied people in various challenging situations, including National Spelling Bee participants, rookie teachers in tough neighborhoods, and West Point cadets, she found: One characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success. And it wasn’t social intelligence. It wasn’t good looks, physical health, and it wasn’t IQ.  It was grit.  

After relying on my grit to prepare for the triathlon, I noticed that it’s the same source I pull from when leading teams to transform and advising other business leaders for how they can pursue change over the long term. Grit is essential, not only in academics or athletics but in business.

Grit can be taught through some of the following exercises:

Develop a Growth Mindset

Carol Dweck from Stanford University teaches us that people who have a growth mindset are more successful than those who think that intelligence is fixed.

Grit Takes Time

Commit to have grit today, but give it time to grow. Practice Grit in both personal and professional circumstances and keep a journal of how you have relied on Grit over time and then look back on how you have grown your ability to apply grit and stay gritty.

The ever changing technology landscape and business that moves at a breakneck pace requires grit now more than ever – in both our personal and professional lives. As you think about digital transformation for your business consider how Grit will play a role of getting your organization to the goals you have.

Molly WINNING MC Challenge Female category

Molly McCarthy wins the Microsoft Challenge Female Category at the NYC Triathlon

It isn’t Grit alone that will propel you to your goal, but teamwork is also essential. Building a team, you can rely on with a foundation of trust, encouragement and mutual respect also leads to great outcomes. In preparing for the triathlon, I came to recognize how much I rely on my support team both personally and professionally for the encouragement and “push” I sometimes needed to get me to my goal.

As you work toward your goals I recommend you prioritize Grit and Teamwork to fuel your personal best.  To learn more about Digital Transformation and other ways you can prepare as a leader check out our ebook to take digital to the core of your business: https://info.microsoft.com/Enterprise_EN-US_ITDM_DTebook_RegistrationPage.html

#MicrosoftChallenge

Sources: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/true-grit-measure-teach-success-vicki-davis

Fellow Profile: Briana Vecchione

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Where are you from?

I’m from Orange County, CA but moved to NYC four years ago.

School/grad year/major: 

I just graduated with a degree in Computer Science & Mathematics from Pace University in downtown Manhattan.

Last thing you searched on Bing:

“What is the area of Greece?” Context: Jake Hofman, a mentor of mine from Microsoft Research, recently did some work to improve user comprehension of large numbers that recently shipped as a new feature in Bing. Now, instead of returning the numeric answer, 50,948 sq miles, Bing returns “About equal to the size of New York State”. It’s really fun – try it!

Why did you choose Microsoft’s fellowship program?

I was actually involved in some previous research through the Microsoft Research Data Science Summer School, where I analyzed the network flow of New York’s bike sharing program and implemented algorithms to decrease system congestion. If you’re interested, you can check out our paper or talk. Matt ended up attending our final presentation and did a write up of it on his personal blog. When I found out about the Civic Tech Fellowship on Twitter, I reached out to him and John to see how I could contribute to the team!

What’s your favorite technology that’s building New York’s civic spaces?

I’ve been following the Beta release of LinkNYC since it began during the end of last year. I love that New York supports the idea that connectivity is a citizen’s right and is making active pursuits to improve the city’s Internet infrastructure. It brings public tech into the 21st century by offering free phone calls, charging stations, and open Internet which includes an interface directing users to city services, directions, and maps. It’s also a brilliant usage of the already-existing fiber optic networks that run through the city and is self-financed by each station’s advertisements.

Who is your civic tech mentor/idol?

I work under John Paul Farmer & Matt Stempeck, both of whom are definitely my in-house idols. I also really admire work being done by researchers Danah Boyd, Hilary Mason, and Hanna Wallach.

What projects are you working on for your position as tech fellow for Microsoft New York?

The bulk of my work has been on civicgraph.io, where I’ve built out an analytics dashboard, restructured the codebase to add some exciting new features, and am implementing a scalable check-in system so users can easily add themselves during events. This is super exciting for me, because I’m really interested in how we collect and translate information in the digital sphere. Because civic graph is open and crowdsourced, it displays a knowledge base not held by a single individual, thus creating its own identity. To be able to administer a digital space that offers simple transparency, helps define ‘civic tech’, and creates such meaningful impacts in the lives of people is a privilege, to say the least.

Separately, I’m working on testing Microsoft Translator in various city spaces so that New York can make the most of its applications for machine translation. We’re going to be using it within summer school classes for ESL or hard-of-hearing students as well as in ID NYC locations for citizens applying for resident benefits. We’ve been doing some internal testing on our end already, and it’s incredible to see how powerful the technology has become. The last time we tested, I thought to myself, ‘wow, this could really make such a difference in so many people’s lives’. It’s an awesome feeling to be able to work on projects like that.

What excites you about civic tech?

I’m passionate about the ‘by the people, for the people’ narrative that civic tech carries. The ability to utilize technical skills is valuable in this economy and comes with a lot of responsibility, and I want to make sure that the work I’m doing contributes as much as possible. I also really appreciate the emphasis on transparency through the open data and open government initiatives that are grown and fostered throughout the community. I’ve never been interested in tech fads and have encountered too many people who exert a lot of talent and energy on products that cater to a very privileged subset of society. When you engage in a space like civic tech, you can’t help but run into an overwhelming amount of brilliant, empathetic, passionate, and conscious thinkers and technologists.

What’s one problem you hope civic tech will solve for cities?

There’s still a lot to be done to improve transportation safety & efficiency in cities. Vision Zero and Transit Wireless has been doing some amazing work in NYC and I’m hopeful that once vehicle automation is fully deployed, it’ll only help to improve that. It’s been fascinating to watch and contribute to the ongoing ethical discussions that have emerged lately as a result of automated transit systems.

Recap: Artificial Intelligence Now #AINow

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This week, the White House and New York University’s Information Law Institute hosted Artificial Intelligence Now, a symposium exploring the impacts of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies across social and economic systems. We were pleased and honored to have Kate Crawford, Principal Researcher, Microsoft Research and Senior Research Fellow, New York University Information Law Institute represent Microsoft as she joined to discuss social inequality, labor, healthcare, and ethics in AI technologies.

The symposium focused on the near future (5-10 years) in technology, with input from leaders in technology, industry, academia, and civil society. We’ve gathered some of the best moments from the symposium — in tweets — below:

Girls Who Code: Bridging the Skills Gap, One Girl at a Time

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The 2016 Girls Who Code Cohort at Microsoft New York

According to Code.org, there are currently more than 500,000 open computing jobs nationwide. Yet last year, only 42,969 computer science students graduated into the workforce. Through our commitment to education, we’re working to bridge this skills gap, encouraging youth to pursue computer science and participating in initiatives that bring digital literacy to our schools. Despite our progress, female interest in computer science still drops off between the ages of 13-17. While 66% of girls express interest in computing programs, only 4% of college-aged young women express that same interest (and enrollment). Enter Girls Who Code.

Girls Who Code (GWC) is a national nonprofit organization that promotes bridging the skills gap and subsequent gender gap that is plaguing the tech sector. In 1984, 37% of all computer science graduates were women. Now, that number has dropped to a mere 18%. Girls Who Code programs battle that by engaging young girls in direct, hands-on computing education, from coding sessions to building hardware, creating their own apps, and meeting with female leaders in the tech industry.

Since its inception, Girls Who Code has gone from 20 girls in New York to 10,000 girls in 42 states. And we’re proud to partner with this organization, bringing girls into our Microsoft offices every summer to take part in the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program. Our hope is that these girls will take what they learn and help make the world a better place through technology. After all, isn’t that what tech is for?

As GWC founder Reshma Saujani says, “When girls learn to code, they become change agents in their communities.” And we can’t wait to see that happen.

Stay posted on MicrosoftNewYork.com for more updates on Girls Who Code and the Summer Immersion Program.

TICTeC 2016 — The Impacts of Civic Technology

Matt Stempeck mySociety TICTeC

This year, we were thrilled to have our own Director of Technology & Civic Engagement, Matt Stempeck, present at the 2016 TICTeC Conference, hosted by mySociety in Barcelona. At the conference, over 140 researchers and practitioners in the tech and government sectors explored the true impact of civic technology. We’re now pleased to announce that TICTeC has put together a video compilation of the conference, including insights from Matt Stempeck himself as well as plenty of the brightest minds in civic technology today.

Watch highlights from TICTeC 2016 live below:

Matt’s spotlight, via mySociety: