Two Philadelphia projects won a total of $500,000 in the Knight News Challenge: Mobile, which announced $2.4 million in funding to eight winners last week.
The Philly projects include: Textizen ($350,000), the Code for America-built text-based civic engagement tool launched in Philly last June, and Abayima ($150,000), a tool that will allow cell phone SIM cards to store news and information, from data startup Metalayer‘s founder Jon Gosier.
Textizen’s win is especially notable, as it represents an effort to scale a project built by Code for America fellows after the fellowship’s end. Textizen cofounder Michelle Lee, who recently finished her run as a Philly Code for America fellow, told Technically Philly that she had always planned on working to scale the tool.
That’s in contrast to the signature project of the first class of Philly’s Code for America fellows, Change By Us, a civic participation website. The fire behind the website has somewhat burned out — there are just over 60 community projects and roughly 400 users on the site, according to the the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, which has has taken over Change By Us. The office said that it’s “incubating” the site right now and deciding how to move forward with it.
Gosier’s project, aimed at changing the way people use cell phones in developing countries, is equally exciting and has already received national coverage by Fast Company. Gosier told us he’s working with developers in other countries on the project and hopes to test it in the upcoming Kenyan elections.
He is also still focused on Metalayer, which he said is still profitable and has some big projects in the works. The startup has downsized recently and is now a two-person team, since two of its employees left to join visual analytics firm Curalate.
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