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.

Coding Outside the Classroom: CoderDojo NYC Teaches Children Computer Science Fundamentals

CoderDojo NYC students work at the Microsoft Store on 5th Ave. Photo from CoderDojo NYC.

Computer Science Education Week is a nationwide initiative suggesting that every student try coding for one hour. Learning the basics of computer science prepares students for a world that is increasingly dominated by technology90 percent of parents want their children to study computer science, and computing jobs are the number one source for new income. Despite 517,393 open computing jobs nationwide, only 42,989 computer science students graduated into the workforce last year. As technology continues to permeate our lives, the demand for employees in the tech sector grows with it, with one million more computer science jobs than people qualified to fill them by 2020.

American schools, however, don’t seem to be ahead of the trend. While the CS For All initiative has led some districts to see the importance in computer science classes, 40 percent of schools still don’t teach computer programming, and only six states have created computer science standards for grades K-12. The reason? Officials don’t think kids have interest in learning computer science. Although New York announced plans to offer all students programming classes by 2025, fewer than 10 percent of city schools currently offer any form of computer science education, and only 1 percent of students are currently in CS classes.

But students do have interest.

Living proof is CoderDojo, a global network of programming clubs for young people. More than 1,400 New York families have annually attended CoderDojo NYC since the chapter opened. At CoderDojo NYC, the mission is to create a fun, creative and collaborative out-of-school environment to explore STEM, where students can build memorable experiences with mentors to ignite passion for technology at an early age.

Coding bootcamps and specialized workshops can get expensive. But CoderDojo NYC, like all the Dojos, is completely free, volunteer-led and open to anyone age 7 to 17. The monthly workshops in the greater New York City area serve as an informal, creative and social environment for young people to learn to code and explore web, game and app development.

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Photo from CoderDojo NYC

The NYC chapter of the nonprofit was co-founded by Carl Sednaoui and Rebecca Garcia in 2012. Garcia took to technology at a young age, teaching herself to code when she was 14. She’s now a Program Manager for Tech Jobs Academy as well as the CoderDojo NYC co-founder.

Garcia explained that there are more than 1,000 chapters of CoderDojo in 60 countries.

‘The idea is that anyone can start a CoderDojo chapter and provide open and accessible education for youth around the globe,” Garcia told us. “Any Saturday, type ‘#CoderDojo’ on Twitter, and you can see chapters from all over the globe coding and tinkering.”

At CoderDojo NYC, children create and build at the half-day hackathon-style workshops through project-based learning, Garcia explained. Projects are sometimes civic-themed or themed for the season. CoderDojo NYC will host a special all-ages event for Hour of Code on Dec. 10 where the theme will be climate change.

What makes the CoderDojo experience so successful is that students receive one-on-one guidance from a mentor, Garcia said.

“The special thing is that there’s only one volunteer for every student,” she said. “It’s very different from a standard classroom environment with one teacher and 30 students.”

Photo from CoderDojo NYC

These CoderDojo NYC volunteers range from more seasoned technology professionals to educators, designers and even students themselves learning to code.

“These people give back to the community through providing guidance and mentorship. They find it very rewarding,” Garcia said.

Children learn using MIT’s Scratch and Arduino’s littleBits programming tools. While students are definitely learning computer science fundamentals through visual programming, Garcia stressed the importance in sparking love of learning at an earlier age.  

“It’s more about exploring creativity through technology,” she said.

Many students move on and learn more coding skills at longer-term programs that CoderDojo NYC has partnerships with, such as Girls Who Code and Nano Hackers Academy. One CoderDojo NYC student, Kiera Cawley, started coding when she was nine and went on to be the youngest person to receive a WWDC scholarship at 12 years old.

CoderDojo NYC maintains partnerships with schools in underrepresented areas and has a naturally occurring 50-50 gender ratio and ethnic diversity. The median age of attendees is 12 to 13.

One seventh grader from Queens, Rebecca Feldman, told the New York Times that she started going to CoderDojo NYC after she became discouraged at her robotics after-school program.

“I was one of two girls in the class,” she told the Times. “We kind of had to fend for ourselves.”

Garcia became a mentor for the student, who became known as Little Rebecca. Garcia recalled that Little Rebecca had never heard of computer science before, but after her first CoderDojo NYC session, she told her parents, “I really like this. Is this something you can do for a living?”

Learn more about CoderDojo on Saturday, Dec. 10 at Hour of Code during Computer Science Education Week.

Drive Digital Literacy This Computer Science Education Week With The Hour of Code

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Every December, something special happens for students around the world. Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek), held annually in December in recognition of the birthday of computing pioneer Grace Hopper (December 9, 1906), is a grassroots campaign dedicated to inspiring K-12 students to take interest in computer science. The campaign, originally conceived by the Computing in the Core coalition, is now spearheaded by Code.org alongside 350 partners and 100,000 educators worldwide.

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Stats via Code.org.

This year, CSEdWeek runs from December 5, 2016 through December 11, 2016, and we’re ready to once again be on board. With over 500,000 open computing jobs nationwide — despite the fact that only 42,969 computer science students graduated into the workforce in 2016 — we’re ready to engage the next generation of coders and drive innovation throughout the world. Organizations like CSNYC are helping to make this happen, by providing programming in key areas to bring access to high-quality computer science education to all of New York City’s 1.1. million public school students. The Computer Science for All Initiative (CS4All), initiative to scale computer science education (CS) to 100% of the City’s public schools plans to bring computer science to all NYC students by 2025.

But that’s just the first step. Computer science is a foundational skill and it’s up to us to ensure that every 21st century child gets the chance to learn how technology works.

So how do we get this done?

The centerpiece of CSEdWeek lies within a program devised by Code.org named the Hour of Code. An Hour of Code is a basic coding tutorial that new coders of all ages — and over 45 languages — can use to begin their journey in computer science. In over 180 countries, 305,078,080 students have performed an Hour of Code since its inception. It’s time to add to this total.

This CSEdWeek, we’re inviting you to take the coding challenge: give a child the gift of computer science and join them in an Hour of Code.

Local Hour of Code programming this CSEdWeek at the Microsoft Store:

YouthSpark: Hour of Code

Join us for this free, 90-minute workshop to take part in the global Hour of Code movement during Computer Science Education Week. Go behind the scenes to learn how to code, program, and play in your own gaming world. You’ll use fun, interactive coding to learn how creativity and problem solving come together to make something all your own. Workshop designed for ages 8 and older.

Monday, December 5, 2016 | 4:00 PM

Tuesday, December 6, 2016 | 4:00 PM

Wednesday, December 7, 2016 | 4:00 PM

Thursday, December 8, 2016 | 4:00 PM

Friday, December 9, 2016 | 4:00 PM

MInecraft Build Challenge

This free Minecraft workshop at your local Microsoft Store offers a fun, hands-on experience for players of every age. Join a team to create something epic before the clock runs out. Prior Minecraft experience is recommended but not required.

Saturday, December 10, 2016 | 11:00 AM

Minecraft Hour of Code

Join us for this free, 90-minute camp to explore a Minecraft world through code and to take part in the global Hour of Code movement. Use blocks of code to take Steve or Alex on an adventure through a Minecraft world. You’ll use kid-friendly programming to learn how creativity and problem solving come together to make something all your own. Curriculum designed for ages 8 and older.  It is recommended that your student bring their own set of headphones for an optimal experience.

Sunday, December 11, 2016 |  2:00 PM

Keeping Girls and Women Safe Through Technology

Microsoft New York Staff at UN

Our team (Natasha Scantlebury, Ross Dakin, John Paul Farmer, Briana Vecchione) with Assistant Secretary-General of the UN Madame Lakshmi Puri (Center).

Earlier this week, dozens of people – including the Microsoft New York team – gathered at the UN Women headquarters in midtown Manhattan to take part in a fascinating workshop on how technology can keep girls and young women safe. After an introduction by Ravi Karkara (Senior Advisor for Strategic Partnership and Advocacy at UN Women), I represented Microsoft in a panel discussion with Roya Mahboob (CEO of the Digital Citizen Fund), Nancy Schwartzman (Founder and CEO of Circle of 6), and Sree Srinivasan (Chief Digital Officer for New York City) that was moderated by Dr. Shruti Kapoor (Founder of Sayfty). Each of the panelists shared examples of how technology can help – from Nancy’s personal safety app that has been highlighted at the White House to Sree’s portfolio as a leading technologist on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s staff to Roya first-hand experiences as a female entrepreneur in Afghanistan.

One particular message I stressed was the importance of ethics in how we develop and use technology. Technology offers us incredible opportunities to improve the safety of girls and young women. But it’s up to us – as companies, governments, academic institutions, non-profits, families, and individuals – to ensure that promise is fulfilled and that such positive impacts of technology are prioritized.

UN Women HeForShe

After the panel surfaced these key issues, all of the event participants got involved by brainstorming ideas and sharing with the room in an open discussion. UN Assistant Secretary-General Madame Lakshmi Puri delivered closing remarks that placed the workshop in the context of the varied efforts and initiatives being undertaken by UN Women and other parts of the United Nations.

This was a very good start.

A look at the day, in tweets:

Civic Tech Events This December in NYC

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‘Tis the season to celebrate the successes of NYC’s civic tech community in 2016 and to toast to the future that awaits in 2017. Get in the holiday spirit at these upcoming events in the city:

Now through December 14 

The Glass Room NYC 

To passers-by, The Glass Room looks like another slick, clean-lined store offering the latest shiny consumer products. Step inside, and you’ll discover something more unusual but nothing for sale. The Glass Room is a place to consider how you use technology and how those behind technology use you. We invite you to defamiliarize yourself with the overly-familiar.

December 1

The Reality in Virtual Reality: A Conversation with Practitioners

Virtual and augmented reality are together growing to be arguably the hottest topic in technology today. Justin Hendrix of the NYC Media Lab and Sophia Dominguez, former Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Rothenberg Ventures, will take us on a brief tour of the VR/AR startup ecosystem here in New York City and around the world. Then, Professor Ken Perlin of NYU’s “Future Reality Lab” will guide us on an entertaining and enlightening journey around the hype.

December 2 

The Mid-Hudson Valley Manufacturing Technology Conference

This event is open to Mid-Hudson Valley advanced technology manufacturers in the food and beverage industry, machining, equipment developers, software companies, health care companies, departments of health and departments of defense. The conference will spotlight challenges facing the region’s technology sector, with a keynote focus on medical technology.

December 3 

Jersey City Hackathon for Sustainability

HackJC: Hack into Sustainability challenges teams to present a proposal to make Jersey City a more sustainable place to work, play and live using of data, technology, reports, articles and expert speakers. This event is open to anyone interested in community-minded work and collaborating for public good.

December 3-4

NYC Hack Foster Care

The NYC Administration for Children’s Services serves over 9,000 children and youth (from birth to age 21) in foster care. Help us develop technical solutions to make the lives of foster youth and those who support them, easier!

December 5 

Ignition Future of Digital – Annual Conference 2016

At IGNITION you’ll get a new understanding of the transformations taking place in the digital world. Join 700 senior executives working in technology, media, entertainment, investment, and finance in staying on top of today’s most innovative ideas.

Smart Contracts Symposium 

The industry’s first event exclusively dedicated to smart contracts. Learn from industry experts about the future of contracts.

*Hosted at the Microsoft Technology Center*

December 6 

Hyperledger NYC Meetup: Blockchain for Finance, IoT

5:30 – Doors open. Networking.
6:15 – Welcome remarks by Keith Berry of Moody’s Analytics.
6:25 – Introduction Talk by Oleg Abdrashitov, Event Host
6:35 – Talk #1. Industry Use Cases for Blockchain: Finance, Legal, Supply Chain, IoT, by Bruce Weed of IBM
7:00 – Q&A break.
7:10 – Talk #2. Introduction to Iroha Project, Accepted Under Hyperledger Umbrella, by Makoto Tokemiya of Soramitsu
7:25 – Q&A break.
7:30 – Fireside Chat. Blockchain Use Cases, Adoption Strategy and Regulations, with Oleg Abdrashitov of Altoros, Susan Ramonat of SEI Investments, Fredrik Voss of Nasdaq, Fahad Chowdhury of Deutsche Bank, and Usha Krishnan of ChainGenie
8:15 – Q&A break and wrap-up.

Inclusion NYC

Inclusion NYC is a tech event that brings together all races, ethnicities, ages and genders for an in-person Twitter chat facilitated in part by student entrepreneurs.

December 7 

Hackers & Hefeweizens, a German Tech Showcase

On December 7th, VentureOut presents Hackers & Hefeweizens, a German pitch night in partnership with the German American Chamber of Commerce. We’ll feature some of the hottest tech startups from Germany trying to wow our panel of esteemed venture investors.

Data & Society Presents: Databite No. 91: Bruce Schneier — Security & Privacy in a Hyperconnected World

We’ have created a world where information technology permeates our economies, social interactions, and intimate selves. The combination of mobile, cloud computing, the Internet Things, persistent computing, and autonomy is resulting in something altogether different — a world-sized web. In this talk, Bruce Schneier will take a retrospective look back at what we’ have learned from past attempts to secure these systems.

Innovation, Automation, and the Future of Work

As artificial intelligence continues to improve, automation increases, and the nature of work evolves, how will our day-to-day lives be affected? Whether technological advances are leading to a bleak dystopia or an age of progress and prosperity, what are some realistic benefits and challenges that we ought to start thinking through today?

December 8 

Blockchain HackNight

Join us  at Byte Academy as we not only learn and discuss blockchain technology but how to hack it as well.

Digital Breakfast – Media-Tech Preview for 2017

Join us as a panel of media and tech experts look once again into their crystal balls and tell us what’s likely to occur over the next 12 months in media and technology. The good, the bad and even the ugly. A great way to cap the past year and ring in the next as we discuss the latest trends. As in years past, we predict a full house for this event, with complimentary registration courtesy of Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz.

Tech in Motion NYC’s End of Year Celebration

This December, join Tech in Motion for an unforgettable celebration of the people and organizations driving innovation in NYC and beyond. Tech in Motion’s End of Year Celebration is a can’t-miss opportunity to network with 1,000+ tech professionals and enthusiasts across our 11 chapters.

December 10 

CoderDoJo Hour of Code Event

The Hour of Code is a global campaign to introduce tens of millions of kids and adults in 180+ countries to one hour of programming during Computer Science Education Week.
Ages 4 to 104 are welcome to join us to try their first programming project at NYU:
— This is a free event, food, and drinks provided
— Attendees will need to provide their own laptop
— Children under 18 must be accompanied by a parent/guardian at all times

December 11 

Brunchwork with Techstars (IoT, FinTech) & FoundersGuild

Fill your weekend with inspiration and intention. Join us for an unforgettable farm-to-table brunch and mimosas with Techstars MD Jenny Fielding & FoundersGuild Founding Partner, Josef Feldman.

December 12

re\VISION NYC

Join us on December 12th from 5-8pm for a cocktail hour and expert-led talks on how to prepare, plan and launch effective omni-channel user experiences. Drinks and hors d’oeuvre will be served.

December 13

NYC TechBreakfast: BetrSpot, DivvyCloud, Init.ai, Capalino+Company

Interact with your peers in a monthly morning breakfast meetup. At this monthly breakfast get-together techies, developers, designers, and entrepreneurs share learn from their peers through show and tell / show-case style presentations.

December NYC Tech Monthly Meetup

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

December 15

Discover Urban Tech at Microsoft’s NYC Reactor at The Hub @ Grand Central Tech

Microsoft’s New York Technology & Civic Innovation team has invited our members, for the second year in a row, to one of their special NYC spaces – this time their New York City Reactor at the newly-opened Hub @ Grand Central Tech. We will hear about how they work collaboratively to improve city life and nurture vibrant businesses that fuel 21st century jobs, and address the most pressing city challenges through a variety of urban tech initiatives.

Speakers include:

Playcrafting NYC: The ’16 Bit Awards

In partnership with Parsons, the New School of Design, this event will include the award ceremony, including musical performances, special guests, and surprises. Refreshments and drinks will be served before and after the event while a number of games will be playable onsite too. Attendees will also receive free download codes for participating nominated games.

December 20

Winter IoT Demo Fair & Networking Bash

Join us for a night of IoT demos and professional networking in which people will get to interact with IoT applications and network with Internet of Things Leaders & Professionals in the NYC Metro area.

Looking Forward in Civic Tech: Code for America Summit and Beyond

Every year, thousands of people gather at the Code for America Summit to discuss how technology can improve our governments and the services that they provide. I had the pleasure of attending the Summit this year in Oakland, CA alongside colleagues from Microsoft and friends from various sectors, all of whom are passionate about advancing a 21st century government by the people, for the people.

If you didn’t make it to Oakland, come to the Civic Hall farewell party followed by a recap of the CFA Summit on Friday!

Jen Pahlka, founder and Executive Director of Code for America, kicked off the Summit with an overview of Code for America, a non-partisan, non-political organization that employs civic technology experts and supports a network of over 80 “Brigades” (local volunteer groups) nationwide. Many of these groups showcased their current efforts at the Summit, including projects related to food assistance programs, criminal justice, and others.

Code for America Summit 2016

This year’s CFA Summit included many fantastic speakers, starting with Cecilia Muñoz (Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council), who praised the growing role of technology in government:

Another exciting White House appearance came from Alvand Salehi and Tony Scott (Office of the U.S. CIO), who unveiled code.gov live onstage. This new website will inventory all federal source code repositories, making code sharable across federal agencies and open sourcing many of them for public use.

Code for America Summit 2016

Speaking of open source, we had fun demonstrating some of the capabilities of the Microsoft Azure cognitive service APIs using our open source Intelligent Kiosk application, which makes use of computer vision to perform face and emotion recognition:

Intelligent Kiosk

We also demonstrated an unreleased version of Microsoft Translator, which is built using the Azure Translator Speech API and Translator Text API (the same technology that powers the translation features in Skype and other Microsoft products).

In her talk Accessibility in the Modern World, Jenny Lay Flurrie highlighted that “technology moves faster than the laws do,” reminding us that accessibility is about much more than compliance. In that spirit, we’re brainstorming ways to apply these translation technologies to the civic tech ecosystem, from promoting inclusion among deaf students and English language learners in the classroom to helping local governments enhance accessibility of citizen services. What ideas do you have? Tweet them to us @MicrosoftNY!

Another open source tool we displayed was Civic Graph:

Civic Graph

Between startups, community advocates, academic and enterprise involvement, and federal/state/local governments, the civic tech space is growing at an inspirational pace. We built Civic Graph to help navigate and visualize this ecosystem and those contributing to it.

We’re excited that in addition to being an open source project, Civic Graph is also generating open data, a topic of much discussion at the CFA Summit.

Of course, no discussion of data would be complete without DJ Patil, the Chief Data Scientist and Deputy CTO of the United States. Interviewed by Tim O’Reilly, DJ reminded us that simply opening a dataset is often not enough; to encourage engagement, the data must be accompanied by a mission.

DJ Patil Tim O'Reilly

The 2016 Summit closed with a beautifully impassioned appeal by Lori Brewer Collins (mother of late White House staffer Jake Brewer) to continue “cultivating the karass” and working toward improving our country and the lives of those within it, reminding us that “A legacy is the enduring truth about your life.”

Lori Brewer Code for America Summit 2016

Cultivate the Karass Code for America Summit 2016

If you didn’t make it to Oakland, come to the Civic Hall farewell party followed by a recap of the CFA Summit on Friday!

To Code And Beyond — Computer Science at Play at Cornell Tech

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Photo via Microsoft YouthSpark

It was an honor to join Cornell Tech as they hosted the second annual To Code and Beyond: Computer Science at Play Conference. This conference brings together organizations and contributors to K-12 Computer Science (CS) education who deliver impact not only in the Greater NYC area but across the US and globally.

With over 1.1 million youth in NYC public schools, there are less than 5% receiving computer science (CS) education. New York City Deputy Mayor Richard Buery asked, “How do we spark a love of computers and technology among our young people? The economy demands out young people grow these skills [to] thrive in the economy. How do you create excitement?”

Debbie Marcus from the NYC Department of Education also raised the question, “How do we provide computer science education to every student regardless of age, gender race, and to see computer science as a literacy?” The idea is not only to create a pathway for youth to explore CS careers, but to see it as a valuable skill that opens opportunity in other fields as well.

Earlier this year, CSNYC announced the CS for All Initiative, a 10-year, $80 million plan to bring computer science education to every student in the New York City public schools. After two years of operation, CSNYC now reaches 7% of the City’s schools and 10,000 students who fully represent the economic, ethnic, and gender diversity of the City.

To Code And Beyond was a culmination of not only sharing years of technology education work, but sharing resources and an open forum for ideas and collaboration. The conference consisted of keynotes, panel discussions that highlighted innovative ways to engage youth not only through CS curriculum, but out of the classroom; per Diane Levitt of Cornell Tech, ‘the vibrancy of informal education’.

The conference highlighted initiatives such as CS4All and organizations across the Greater NYC Area including CSNYC and its CS4All Consortium, NY Hall of Science, Lower East Side Girls Club, and FIRST Robotics NYC supported by national tech companies.

Currently in 23 high schools across the Greater NYC Area and around the US, Microsoft TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools) helps high schools build sustainable computer science programs by pairing trained computer science professionals.

What can NYC local organizations and schools do to access CS education and reach more youth?

Local NYC organizations and schools can join the CS for All movement and attend CS NYC pedagogy meetups, joining the NYC STEM education network, STEM Funders Network, CS for All Consortium, or Hive NYC.

Next month, we’re excited to celebrate Computer Science Education Week (CS Ed Week). From Dec 5th-11th across the globe, anyone, anywhere can organize an Hour of Code event. One-hour tutorials are available in over 45 languages. No experience needed for this training geared toward new coders ages 4 to 104.

Start now: Find a local YouthSpark or Minecraft Event near you.

Rebecca Garcia is a Program Manager for Tech Jobs Academy. Previously she was awarded as a U.S. White House Champion of Change for ‘Tech Inclusion’, named one of Glamour Magazine’s Top 35 Women Under 35 Changing the Tech Industry’ and Hispanicize’s STEM Star for her non-profit work as Co-founder of CoderDojo NYC.

Habitat III: A Once-In-A-Generation Civic Experience

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Photo: John Paul Farmer

It’s hard to catch your breath in Quito, Ecuador. Whether it’s the thin air of its 10,000 foot elevation, the natural beauty of its volcanic mountains, or the built beauty of its colonial-era architecture, Quito is a city that leaves you breathless.

Last month, 30,000 people came together in the scenic Ecuadorian capital to discuss the future of cities at Habitat III. Hosted by the United Nations, this once-every-20-years convening marked just the third of its kind, following in the footsteps of Habitat I in Vancouver in 1976 and Habitat II in Istanbul in 1996. UN-hosted World Urban Forums have been held every couple of years in recent decades, although none has reached the scale of Habitat.

At Habitat III, a wide range of individuals and organizations – including governments, companies, non-profits, and academic institutions – gathered to share best practices, to celebrate successes, and to approve a New Urban Agenda that marks the culmination of years of negotiations among United Nations member states.

Gatherings ranged from formal (including official delegate discussions in the National Theater), to participatory (such as the youth assemblies) to informal (like the lightning talks that electrified the expo hall). Some of the most interesting highlights were the following:

The Global Municipal Database – Lourdes German, Director of International and Institute-wide Initiatives at the Lincoln Institute, showcased a dashboard for cities that is built upon Microsoft technologies such as Azure, Power Map and Power BI. Working with cities in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, the Global Municipal Database tracks key fiscal indicators including expenditures, revenue, and borrowing and gives communities the tools to visualize the data and create actionable insights. What’s so powerful about these technologies is that many of their functionalities are Excel-based, meaning millions of people could use them tomorrow to make their cities more transparent and accountable, with no further training necessary.

Water and Resilience – It has been said that everyone has a water problem: either too polluted, too much, or not enough. For example, fully one-third of the Netherlands – a country built on its shipping and ports – lies below sea level. The country’s strength – water – is also its greatest vulnerability. With years of such experience living with water, the Netherlands was especially well qualified to host a conversation on the subject, which included viewpoints from Rotterdam and The Hague as well as a framework shared by 100 Resilient Cities’ Andy Salkin. One insight from The Hague was that resilience is not only physical, but must also be social and digital. Every aspect of a city must be able to bounce back. And while the cities of the Netherlands are especially advanced in learning how to live with water, most cities around the world are just getting started.

Public Spaces – Public spaces also played a key role, with planners asking whether placemaking will be at the heart of cities in the future. With a discussion of Eastern and Western traditions in terms of public spaces, the room erupted into a lively debate, during which an audience member noted that urban planners are increasingly using Microsoft’s Minecraft to engage people – particularly the young – in co-designing their own public spaces.

Housing – Housing was a major focus at Habitat III, for developed cities such as New York and for developing cities such as Lagos alike. With the majority of humanity living in cities for the first time in history, the influx of newcomers creates new stresses. Safe, accessible, and affordable housing is a priority.

Accessibility – A theme that was more woven into the conference experience than something explicitly called out was the need for more accessible communities. Microsoft is increasingly collaborating with cities to use technology to improve accessibility to services, information, and opportunity. “Eliminate the unnecessary barriers that limit our potential,” implored Dr. Victor Santiago Pineda of the University of California at Berkeley, who also served as co-chair for accessibility at Habitat III.

Youth – A particularly interesting aspect of Habitat III was the prevalence of young people everywhere you went. While most delegates were more senior, accomplished professionals, the conference grounds also teamed with young people of high school and college age. Many of those youth were local Ecuadorians engaging with this once-in-a-lifetime event that was on their home soil. Others were young people from around the world who journeyed to Quito to serve as agents of change. A middle-aged delegate at one youth-run session exclaimed “I’ve been going to sessions back-to-back for two days and this is the first one that is participatory. I think we need more of this.”

After several incredible days in Quito, the big question on everyone’s lips was, “What happens next?” How does the New Urban Agenda get implemented? To what extent will cities be prioritized by the UN? What role will technology play in forging solutions to our hardest problems? Will upcoming World Urban Forums be effectively leveraged to ensure steady progress on such audacious goals? Will the assumptions and priorities of Habitat III stand the test of time? Only time will tell.

Habitat III brought together planners, policymakers, technologists, and young people who care about the future of cities. Technology was there and will be an increasingly ubiquitous part of our lives. These new cross-sector connections have the potential to pay dividends between now and Habitat IV in 2036 – but that potential requires action by us to be fulfilled.

Source: Habitat III

Human-Centered, Pro Bono Data Science at Machine Eatable

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Photo: Susan Sun at Machine Eatable | C/O John Paul Farmer.

Just in time for International Pro Bono Week, this past month’s Machine Eatable discussion featured two DataKind volunteers presenting on recent pro bono consulting projects. These DataCorps projects, as they’re called, typically last 3-6 months with volunteers donating a whopping 5-10 hours per week in addition to their full-time jobs. While the projects are pre-scoped by DataKind staff before teams start, there are still usually some twists and turns along the way where teams must pivot and come up with creative solutions. 

With a PhD in business economics from Harvard, DataKind volunteer Raluca Dragusanu first presented on her team’s work with a nonprofit called MicroCred. MicroCred works to make financial services available to the individuals that are underserved or unserved by the traditional financial sector, particularly the micro, small and medium entrepreneurs. In a project sponsored by IBM, her team used predictive modeling to improve their customer scoring and overall efficiency in granting loans so they can ultimately reach more people underserved and unserved by the financial sector. 

Up next, Susan Sun, a freelance data scientist working at Google, spoke about her team’s work with VOTO Mobile, one of West Africa’s fastest growing social enterprises. They aim to amplify the voice of the underheard through a mobile-based Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and survey platform that removes the barriers to insightful mobile communication between citizens worldwide and the organizations that serve them. In a project sponsored by Google, her team did statistical analysis on VOTO Mobile’s call and response data to identify the factors that result in successful completion of IVR surveys by women. This is all in an effort to combat the issue of data deserts, where certain populations tend to be underrepresented in datasets used to drive decisions around policy or other humanitarian interventions. 

Both projects had some common twists and turns including challenges with the data itself and also ensuring that the team’s work was continuously guided by the organization’s needs. As Susan described, her team had to pivot from a “hammer/nail” mentality where you want to fix everything with a machine learning model to a human-centered one where you are tailoring your work to meet the actual needs of your partner – even if it means doing something simpler or more foundational. Similarly, Raluca commented that The Data for Good movement is about more than just data science – it’s also about empowering and supporting the people that will ultimately carry the work forward.

Indeed, people are ultimately at the heart of this work so it’s important not just to select the right model or have the right data, but engage the right people to affect long-lasting change.

Tweets from this month’s #MachineEatable:

Civic Tech Events This November in NYC

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It’s November and time to give thanks for the advancements our city is making in the Civic Tech space. Show your appreciation and join us this month at these top events around the city:

November 1-3 

Code for America Summit

The Code for America Summit is a roll-up-your-sleeves conference that brings together government innovators, civic-minded technologists, and entrepreneurs. It’ll be you and 1,200 of the most talented civic tech leaders taking over downtown Oakland, CA. Come with your passion for building a 21st-century government. Leave with the skills you need to do it.

We’ve put together a lineup of more than 200 speakers from the public, private, and non-profit sectors. They’re excited to share what’s working, what’s not, and what they’re learning along the way.

BSR Conference 2016

The BSR Conference is one of the most important global gatherings dedicated to sustainable business. This November, a global audience of close to 1,000 senior business executives from the public and private sector and civil society will gather in New York to explore emerging trends and innovative solutions to crucial sustainability questions. This year’s conference theme — BE BOLD — is a rallying cry for businesses addressing the toughest issues of our time.

November 1-6

Harlem Tech Week

Harlem Tech Week is NYC’s largest diverse tech community conference. The conference & expo supports under-resourced small businesses and entrepreneurs to excel and succeed in tech.

November 1-4 

Fast Company Innovation Festival

This fall, The Fast Company Innovation Festival will bring these extraordinary personalities together for surprising talks, hands-on workshops, unexpected performances and behind-the-scenes tours designed to inspire creativity and innovation.

November 2 

November 2016 NY Enterprise Technology Meetup (ft. The Blockchain Revolution)

The future is blockchain. You’re invited to join Work-Bench, RRE Ventures, and the NY Enterprise Tech Meetup for an exclusive blockchain event.

November NY FinTech Fireside Chat w/ Betterment Co-Founder Eli Broverman

Join the live stream for this fireside chat at 7pm EST on Wednesday, November 2.

November 2-4 

OpenLink Global Summit 2016

Please join us for the OpenLink Global Summit 2016, to be held on November 2-4, at the prestigious New York Marriott Marquis. The OpenLink Global Summit is a knowledge-oriented, interactive three-day event. The event will include, presentations with examples of real-world applications, hands-on demonstrations, product previews, and valuable networking sessions with our senior management and development staff, as well as your peers.

November 3-4 

DataEngConf

DataEngConf is the first engineering conference that bridges the gap between data engineers and data scientists. Conference talks focus on examples of real-world architectures, data pipelines and plumbing systems, and applied, practical examples of data science.

November 7 

NYC TechBreakfast: BLASTeo, CFT Power Systems, Collaborizm, Roomi 

Interact with your peers in a monthly morning breakfast meetup. At this monthly breakfast get-together techies, developers, designers, and entrepreneurs share learn from their peers through show and tell / show-case style presentations.

Womensphere Global Awards @ Womensphere Summit & Festival 2016

The Womensphere Foundation recognizes extraordinary women and men whose leadership create a better future, and whose life’s work have created transformational impact in their industry, field or discipline, and the world. This year, we are honoring over a dozen extraordinary leaders and changemakers. Among this year’s Womensphere Global Leadership Award honorees is Carla Harris, Vice Chairman of Morgan Stanley.

November 9 

ARcade 7: VR, AR, and Politics 

At the Meetup we will have content curated from the likes of RYOT and Huffington Post to show how VR is being used as a form of journalism to spread awareness about environmental issues, an experience that shows how it feels to be in solitary confinement courtesy, while also have recordings of the Republican and Democratic Presidential Debates.

1st Annual NYU Stern FinTech Conference 
Our first annual FinTech conference will address how the expansion of technological services will challenge our preexisting ideas about how financial institutions should operate. The day will include: Faculty presentations on the potential of FinTech and the influence of Blockchain; Keynote speakers’ (Adrienne Harris, NYU Stern MBA ’14, and Dan Schulman, NYU Stern MBA ’86) insights into the future of the FinTech industry; Panels led by Stern professors, stacked with business leaders coming from major tech companies, such as CircleUp and EquityNet; and an evening networking reception with representatives from FinTech businesses.

November 10

Women In Tech Panel

Calling all Women in Tech! Come out for a fun night of networking and candid discussion about interviewing for jobs, first jobs in tech, and life as a female developer. Our panel will include Laurence Bradford (Founder, Learn to Code With Me), Karen Teng (Director of Engineering, ClassPass), and Anita Wang (UI Engineer, Meetup), who can share perspectives on the NYC tech scene.

November 10-12 

Exploring Future Reality 2016

Is the age of virtual and augmented reality, long anticipated, finally upon us? Exploring Future Reality is a full day event with virtual and augmented reality faculty researchers and industry experts delivering lightning talks, presentations, and interactive demos. The discussion will focus on the impact of VR/AR on the media and technology industry, including best practices for storytelling, prototyping, and distribution.

 

Cyber Security Awareness Week 2016

Cyber Security Awareness Week is the largest student-run cyber security event in the nation, featuring six competitions, keynote presentations, workshops, and an industry fair.

November 12 

The Silicon Alley Technology Summit

Join us at the inaugural S.A.T SUMMIT 2016 to mingle with 2500+ startup founders, 1000+ gurus of the tech industry, 1500+ top angels and VCs, 1000+ experts, and so much more. Become one of the 125 pre-selected startups to pitch on stage in front of the premier Silicon alley angels & VCs.

November 15

Women in FinTech: Humanizing Data

Join LMHQ + Future\Perfect Ventures for a Women in Fintech event on November 15th. We’ll explore the importance of humanizing data in the fintech sector. Join for the panel discussion featuring influential and innovative women in the industry, including Shaunda Brown, Director of Business Development SoFi, Hilary Mason, Data Scientist and Founder of Fast Forward Labs, and Jane Barratt, Founder GoldBean.

November 16 

Women Who Code NYC: Algorithms @ Betterment

This monthly meetup covers algorithms. We’ll split attendees into two main groups: whiteboarding skills and beginner skills.

Schedule:
6:30 Arrive/Network/Food
7:00 Welcome from Women Who Code and Organizers
7:05 Welcome from Betterment Engineering
7:15 Meetup starts
9:00 Event ends after solution presentation from volunteers

November 16-17 

Data Transparency Lab Conference 2016

The third annual gathering of the Data Transparency Lab, a community of technologists, researchers, policymakers and industry representatives working to advance online personal data transparency through scientific research and design.

November 17

AlleyBoost Startup Expo

The AlleyBoost Startup Expo: An opportunity for over 75 exciting exhibitors to get in front of thousands of awesome attendees including startup enthusiasts, elite talent, the press and leading investors. The Expo is being hosted at The Yard: Flatiron North which is located in the heart of Manhattan.

Global Startup Hackathon – Columbia

Whether you are a bootstrapped founder, engineer, doctor, PhD scientist, business hacker, or student, you are invited to join this must attend Hackathon. The top participants “based on innovation merit” will be invited to showcase their proof of concept or demo.

November 18

Out in Tech Talks

Out in Tech Talks will unite 450+ leading and aspiring LGBTQ and allied voices in the tech community to advance the dialogue around diversity in tech and address the power of technology to create social change.

November 19

DAT2016 Workshop on Data and Algorithmic Transparency

The Workshop on Data and Algorithmic Transparency (DAT’16) is being organized as a forum for academics, industry practicioners, regulators, and policy makers to come together and discuss issues related to increasing role that “big data” algorithms play in our society. Our goal is to provide a venue for fruitful discussions and high-quality academic research papers focused on increasing understanding and transparency of large-scale data collection and the systems and algorithms that it powers.

Tricks, Treats, and More at Playcrafting’s Halloween Game Expo

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It’s close to midnight, and something evil’s lurking in the dark…

Okay, it’s actually going to be much earlier than that, but you don’t want to miss the thrilling Playcrafting Halloween Game Expo on Saturday, October 29th. Video games are taking over two floors of the Microsoft office at 11 Times Square in an all-out celebration of local gamers and game makers! Join us – and over 100 developers – for a day of games, pizza, treats and prizes. Costumes are encouraged and families are welcome – bring your kids to trick-or-treat for candy from booth to booth as they try out each game. We’ll also have a fun expo-wide Expo Quest for all of our guests.

We hope you can join us for this very special edition of our seasonal Expo — register here.

And our organization likes to wear many hats. Along with supporting the local gaming community, and hosting events where gamers can play to their hearts’ content, we also make sure that the next generation of game developers stays in New York. Our standalone classes and 8-week courses are designed to make sure that anyone who wants to create their own game can. And there’s so much more. Follow us on Twitter @PlaycraftingNYC or subscribe to our newsletter here to stay up-to-date on all our Playcrafting happenings.

TRICK OR TREAT: Halloween Game Expo!
Saturday, October 29, 2016 from 2:00 PM to 7:00 PM (EDT)
Microsoft at 11 Times Square
New York, NY

Playcrafting is offering a very generous 20% discount for this event for Microsoft Readers. Simply enter the code MSNYHXPO at checkout.