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Technical.ly receives $50,000 Lenfest ‘Every Voice, Every Vote’ grant to investigate local IT and tech policy

With the potential for a flood of federal tech funding and an AI-influenced presidential election, cities are at a critical juncture.

Sign at a polling place in Philadelphia, November 2023 (Danya Henninger/Technical.ly)

This article is a part of Every Voice, Every Vote, a collaborative project managed by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism with lead support from the William Penn Foundation, and additional funding from Lenfest, Comcast NBC Universal, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Henry L. Kimelman Family Foundation, Judy and Peter Leone, Arctos Foundation, Wyncote Foundation, 25th Century Foundation and Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation.

Deploying technology in smart ways is critical to progress.

That’s especially true right now in US cities, and it’s why the Lenfest Institute awarded Technical.ly $50,000 to report on local IT and tech policy. 

This fall brings a presidential election where AI is likely to play a role, in messaging and cybersecurity battles that pivot around voter-rich urban centers. Meanwhile, the potential for a flood of federal funding via the CHIPS and Science Act and other initiatives means local leaders have a unique opportunity to seize the day.

With help from this generous Lenfest grant, Technical.ly’s coverage will pull back the curtain on these scenarios.

We’ve recently investigated shakeups in Philly’s IT department and looked at the ways tech policy can make it easier for more residents to economically thrive. We reported on a database leak of up to 13 million pieces of personal information from 311 callers in Baltimore. 

We’re honored to once again bring our work to the journalism nonprofit’s Every Voice, Every Vote project, which launched to advance civic engagement leading up to Philadelphia’s 2023 mayoral election. Now Lenfest and philanthropic partners are incentivizing follow-ups. This new round of funding, which totals $2.85 million, is going to Technical.ly and 70 other organizations.

With Pennsylvania a battleground state this November, every part of voting technology is likely to be called into question.

Election integrity is a good place for us to start. 

With Pennsylvania a battleground state this November, every part of voting technology is likely to be called into question. Our reporters will examine Philadelphia’s preparedness — both in ensuring cybersecurity and in responding to possible skepticism fueled by deepfakes now easily created with generative AI — and contrast it with how other cities are handling the new tech.

Artificial intelligence stands as an opportunity, and threat, for the local economy in general. Another story reported as part of this project will look at how AI is affecting local workforce development. Will there be a big drop in software developer jobs? Does that matter?

Themes of Technical.ly’s EVEV reporting

  • Election cybersecurity preparedness
  • Impacts of state and federal tech investment on local communities
  • Workforce in the face of AI
  • Where is Open Data Philly
  • Effects of population and demographic change on business creation

We’ll also dive into how the continuing influx of billions in federal dollars to boost technological progress is affecting local communities. 

Will the EDA award Philadelphia $80 million for its precision medicine tech hub, for example — or will Baltimore get $70 million for its predictive medicine hub? And what does that mean for the neighborhoods where all this biotech research and development would happen? Will Pittsburgh’s $63 million Build Back Better regional challenge grant spur a manufacturing tech renaissance in Pennsylvania?

US cities are also undergoing some major demographic shifts. 

While population is dropping in many Northeast metro centers — Baltimore and Pittsburgh among them — in Philadelphia, there’s been growth thanks to an increase in Latino and Hispanic residents, groups that have unusually high rates of entrepreneurship. We’ll look at what this means for the business landscape, and what policies and programs are being set up to help founders find and handle success. (Related: Several of our Every Voice, Every Vote stories will be translated into Spanish.)

Tracking all the above factors is also important, because you have to know how you’re doing in order to improve, and most cities could do a better job of sharing that info.

Pittsburgh has an index that pulls together disparate datasets to show how downtown is faring, for example. Boston has what might be a new gold standard: Its CityScore dashboard combines factors across all municipal departments to offer a single number indicating the city’s health.

In Philadelphia, there’s an wide assortment of sector- or topic-specific dashboards, but the Open Data Philly site that was once considered cutting edge could use some love. We’ll dig into the latest of what’s happening on that front, which cities are doing it well, and who cares about pushing it forward — or doesn’t.

As part of our Every Voice, Every Vote work, Technical.ly will also produce explainer videos that share info across platforms and communities. Did you catch last year’s vids with local comedian TaTa Sherise?

With this grant, we’ll continue to unveil crucial stories, engage and strengthen a tech-savvy electorate and broaden the dialogue. Our thanks to the Lenfest Institute for funding this work.

Companies: Technical.ly
Series: Every Voice, Every Vote

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