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Meet Wilmington’s ‘tech councilman’

Darius Brown wants businesses to take advantage of open data and hopes to expand fintech opportunities in the city.

Market Street. (Photo by Flickr user TCDavis, used under a Creative Commons license)

Councilman Darius Brown is known around town as the “tech councilman.” Wielding a nickname like that bears the burden of meeting high expectations held by the community you’re claiming to represent. In his two-and-a-half years on council, Brown has made some leeway in getting the city to adopt certain programs and practices implemented in larger cities.

Darius Brown.

Darius Brown. (Courtesy photo)

“I’m always trying to advocate for the immersion of technology in how we govern and how we solve problems within city government,” Brown said. “I believe that our government should be integrated with those technologies.”
Like what?
Take ShotSpotter, for example. It’s the much buzzed-about gunshot location system that can pinpoint where a shot has been fired with precision. Brown said one of his current projects is trying to get city government to embrace that technology.
“We’re looking to use that technology to notify police officers while they’re out on patrol when shots are fired and where they’re fired,” Brown said. The technology allows officers to dispatch to their destination much more efficiently. “It’s a specific address and location that would tell them not only that you’re at 831 Northwestern, but it would also tell you that the shot was fired in the backyard.”
That’s what Brown is working on. But what has he done?
In late January, Brown and Mayor Dennis Williams launched Tweet My Jobs, a free social media platform designed to address unemployment in Wilmington by connecting potential job seekers with employers. According to Brown, over 3,800 individuals and 120 businesses have signed up. They’ve garnered a collective 60,000 views.
“We’ve had small mom-and-pop manufacturing companies like Franklin Fibre all the way to corporations like AstraZeneca, Starbucks and AT&T all on the site posting jobs, looking for employees here in the city of Wilmington,” he said.
It’s all about creating economic opportunity with Brown. That’s why he hopes businesses will start using city data to their advantage. “Open data is a resource that the city can use to cultivate more tech businesses, small business, entrepreneurship and grow our local economy,” he said.
But how? And why aren’t businesses doing it?
“I just don’t think the city infrastructure is in place where they have access to it to utilize it,” he said. At the same time, he said, “We have as much fiber running through our streets as Wall Street.” And with all of the banks that call Wilmington home, Brown said the city has an opportunity to become a leader in financial technology.
“We’re able to be the back office and handle the tech side of banks in our industry,” he said.
But most of all, Brown said Wilmington needs to do more around open data. A good model?
“Austin, Texas.”


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