November 2016

City to City: Igniting Best Practices from Boston to Austin

One of the youngest populations in the country. Concerns about affordable housing pushing out the creative class and old-timers. Exciting repurposing of older industrial neighborhoods to support innovation and placemaking.

Reading those sentences, you might think I was talking about Boston. Those descriptions also fit the city of Austin, where I had the chance to join the Boston Chamber’s “City to City” trip last week. Designed as a trip to learn and share best practices between cities, this event included sixty Bostonians from government, private sector and community organizations. We explored several locations, met key city leaders and discussed a number of civic topics important to both cities. We also got a chance to eat some delicious Texas barbecue and listen to some of the best music the country has to offer!

Some takeaways I had from our delegation:

  • Now more than ever, public-private partnerships matter. You may think of this as private sector funding public projects, but it’s much more than that. It could be the ability to convene a diverse set of stakeholders, or making connections beyond the public sphere. It could be finding a way to apply a private sector approach to a community problem. It’s really about broadening the inputs into a challenge.
  • It’s important to be able to creatively look at what a space is to what it could be. The new Austin Community College campus at Highland is a fantastic example of this. Transformed from a 1970’s era retail mall, the new campus has the space to accommodate over 6,000 students and includes a state-of-the-art center for innovative learning. It took vision and collaboration to look beyond the original space and re-imagine it into today’s thriving campus.
  • Finding a way to support a thriving creative class is very hard, but necessary to keep an authentic city culture. We heard many diverse perspectives on how Austin’s musicians needed support, as well as differing opinions on how that support could be provided. The support artists need is also more than just venues and performance opportunities—issues like health insurance and affordable housing were raised. There are no easy answers but all agreed it was a challenge to address.
  • In this political climate, it will be necessary for cities to work together to thrive. Cities handle many of the same challenges that may not be addressed at the federal or state level, and frequently, there already are connections between mayors, or innovation offices, or economic development offices that permit a free flow of ideas. Now more than ever, the good ideas will need to be shared frequently and proactively.

I should also mention that it was a true honor and pleasure to spend three days with some of Boston’s most thoughtful and committed leaders to hear their perspectives what we were learning in Austin and how it might apply to our city.

Students at AMSA Charter School Delve Into Complex Cybersecurity Issues

Local governments in New England are committed to teaching computer science to student of all ages. Recently, Governor Raimondo of Rhode Island shared that computer science would be taught in all K-12 classes, raising the bar for technology education and challenging other states across the county to provide students with the skills they need to be successful in tomorrow’s economy.

“Our kids deserve the best opportunities in the 21st century tech-driven economy, so we need to do everything we can to help them get ahead by developing the skills that matter,” Raimondo said. “Part of turning our economy around and creating jobs is making sure every student, at every level, has access to the new basic skill: computer science. Thanks to the partners we have assembled for this initiative, I know we can achieve this goal.”

Why can’t I get on Twitter today?

The Advanced Math and Science Academy (“AMSA”) Charter School in Marlborough, Massachusetts exemplifies the value of learning computer science from a young age. In a session, earlier this month, I had the opportunity to lead a discussion with Juniors and Seniors regarding current topics in Cyber Security. First we discussed the internet outage led by systematic attacks using unsecured Internet of Things (“IoT”) devices on DNS services. Everything from coffee pots to light bulbs are being designed for use in a networked environment, and many times connect directly to the internet with no security software or firewall. Conversations quickly turned to policy questions of if the government of the country where the IoT devices are manufactured should mandate security features or if it is the responsibility of the consumer protection laws in the country where the IoT Devices are ultimately sold.

Cyber warfare: what constitutes a war?

Joelle Jenny, Director of Security Policy and Conflict Prevention for the EU and a Fellow at the Harvard University Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, assisted in laying the framework for an in-depth discussion cyber warfare and how sovereign nations protect their interests, both in terms of defense and deterrence. Over the past year, Iran and Saudi Arabia have been documented as waging several computer-based attacks. Given the number of regional attacks, spending on cyber security in the Middle East alone is anticipated to be over $9 billion by 2019. Through a series of cyberattacks, the power grid of the Ukraine was knocked offline leaving 700,000 people without access to electricity. Per a NATO report, US-Israeli forces used a computer based attack to dismantle Iran’s nuclear program, shutting down centrifuges.

These high school students, with several years of computer science training already under their belts, began to discuss topics that are complex for most graduate students.

“What constitutes a cyber-attack by a sovereign power? Can a cyberattack be an act of war? What policies can be created to prevent such an attack? Which international governing bodies provide guidance on these issues?”

“AMSA has been a pioneer with Computer Science in the core curriculum,” said Padmaja Bandaru, a computer science educator at AMSA Charter School. “This brought accolades and recognition to AMSA in the community. Having Computer Science every year provides more flexibility and opportunities to try new programming tools and languages. The students are inquisitive by nature and are enthusiastic to learn more about real world situations and learn from listening to those experiences.”

Training in computer science not only prepares students for careers in STEM fields, but also for professions in technology policy, an area growing vastly more complex with the pace of technological advancement. Through the commitment of high schools, such as AMSA Charter School, we will see New England retain a competitive edge by the advancement of young people that are prepared for technological challenges not yet defined.

Michael ImpinkMichael Impink is a Senior Manager at Microsoft Corporation and is a Fellow at the Harvard University Weatherhead Center of International Affairs focusing on technology issues and business strategy in emerging markets.

Previewing TRANSFORM: A Conversation on Global Disruption and Local Transformation on Nov. 18

Despite the best of intentions, more often than not — and for the obvious reasons — business leaders have their heads down developing strategy, product, sales and other facets that keep their companies alive and prosperous.

But as companies begin to grow, there are so many other outside forces leaders must concede to: domestic and global economic outlooks, policies and regulations that focus on issues from trade to data governance to immigration reform, cross border security, corporate tax structures and more. We are at a crossroads, and it is now more than ever that the tech leaders must come together and problem solve as only they can. We are facing a very different landscape that can affect how businesses invest and operate.

Even leading up to this past election before there was a clear winner, issues such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), immigration reform, intellectual property reform and data privacy agreements were being acted upon in Congress.  Given the President-elect’s feelings about many of these issues, the tech community could find itself rethinking and retooling how it has been functioning over the past eight years.

Boston has some of the brightest minds in the world. In fact, the notion of Mass. Technology and Leadership Council‘s TRANSFORM was born from the realization that these brilliant people are sharing their insights all over the globe — so why not bring them together to talk about how these same issues are impacting them as individuals, employers and tech sector members here in the region?  

I often think of myself as extremely fortunate that as part of my job I have an opportunity to speak with and learn from so many of these brilliant minds. Just a few weeks back, I had a call with Joe Fuller from Harvard Business School who spent time talking about what his research has proven with respect to developing talent and a real pipeline for tech and how the automation of job functions has been developing. This seems like things you might read in the paper or hear others talk about, but his perspective was so fresh and different and, to be honest, very scary. His upcoming talk at TRANSFORM regarding what the workforce of 2025 will look like will be a not-to-miss.

I also spoke with Noel Zamot, the former commander of the U.S. Air Force’s Elite Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base (think Top Gun!). He went on to help secure weaponry for the Department of Defense. With his new company, Corvus Analytics, Noel has embarked on a way to secure both commercial and military airplane systems from being compromised.

These are just two of our exciting speakers, and at TRANSFORM on Nov. 18 at the Federal Reserve Boston from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Joe, Noel and 100 other brilliant minds will come together to talk more about the next generation workforce, securing our skies and many other critical issues facing tech today and beyond.

Innovation Reigns at the 2016 MassChallenge Awards


Photo: MassChallenge

Each year, we’re thrilled to support MassChallenge, the most startup-friendly accelerator on the planet, as it gathers its 128-startup cohort and cultivates support and collaboration throughout the startup ecosystem. This year, we supported five Civic Innovation Scholars, and watched with excitement as these startups — and their peers — worked to create great things in the startup community.

Last Wednesday, leaders, supporters, and fans of the startup community joined MassChallenge for its final awards ceremony of 2016, where over $1 million were awarded to the top startups in this year’s cohort. This year’s winners can be found here.

We’d like to extend our sincerest thanks to MassChallenge for including us in such a wonderful venture — we can’t wait to work with the 2017 cohort!

Some of the top tweets from this year’s MassChallenge Awards (#MCAwards16):

Boston as the Model of Innovation – Again!

Photo: AOB Photo

Panelists: Daniel Castro, Vice President at ITIF, Azer Bestavros, Professor of Computer Science at Boston University, Elizabeth Grossman, Microsoft Tech & Civic Engagement Group, and Lauren Lockwood, Chief Digital Officer for the City of Boston. Photo: AOB Photo

Last Thursday, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) and Boston University hosted an event in Washington DC on “The Cities of Tomorrow” which highlighted Boston’s innovation in strategic approaches to and execution of smart cities activities. The panel discussion featured Lauren Lockwood, Chief Digital Officer for the City of Boston, Azer Bestavros, Professor of Computer Science at Boston University, and Daniel Castro, Vice President at ITIF, and was moderated by me.

It was a robust discussion on topics like implementation processes for new smart city technologies, how to scale solutions within and among cities, approaches to inclusive design, policies around security and privacy, and models for public private partnerships.

Panelists: Lauren Lockwood, Chief Digital Officer for the City of Boston, Azer Bestavros, Professor of Computer Science at Boston University, Daniel Castro, Vice President at ITIF, and Elizabeth Grossman, Microsoft Tech & Civic Engagement Group. Photo: AOB Photo

Panelists: Elizabeth Grossman, Microsoft Tech & Civic Engagement Group, Lauren Lockwood, Chief Digital Officer for the City of Boston, Azer Bestavros, Professor of Computer Science at Boston University, Daniel Castro, Vice President at ITIF. Photo: AOB Photo

The audience, including representatives from Congress, agencies, think tanks, universities, and companies, heard about individual smart cities projects underway in Boston and elsewhere. At a broader level, the panel also discussed how cities like Boston are developing new programs and capacities to efficiently and inclusively identify how emerging digital capabilities can serve citizens, strengthen communities, and enable economic development. Lauren described the approach to the recent redesign of the website, including how the process built in accessibility and how it is being open sourced to enable others to examine and build on the Boston team’s learnings. The panel highlighted the range of new data sources being created about cities by public and private organizations, and Azer described BU’s Data Mechanics course where students are learning and sharing how to work with and gather insights from such data.

These are just a few examples from the conversation; you can see the video recording of the full discussion here.

Microsoft New England Picks: Not-To-Miss Events This November


This November, we’re thankful for Civic Tech! Keep up-to-date as the holiday season kicks off with our top picks for events in civic tech, STEM, and more this month:

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.

November 1

Future of Nature: Conservation’s Next Generation

With profound environmental challenges on the horizon, where will the leaders of conservation’s next generation come from, and what will they do?

Join us for a dynamic panel discussion exploring these questions and more. The panel will include:

  • Victor Medina, park ranger, National Park Service
    Charles Orgbon III, founder and CEO, Greening Forward
  • Brigitte Griswold, director of youth engagement programs, The Nature Conservancy
  • WBUR reporter Shannon Dooling will moderate.

We’ll kick off the event with a reception featuring sustainable, local refreshments.

November 1

Cambridge Chamber November Networking Breakfast

Join us for structured speed networking and continental breakfast. Connect one-on-one with representatives of businesses in Cambridge and beyond, and switch every 5 minutes to meet prospective customers or clients in a fun structured environment.

Come prepared to talk about what you do and bring plenty of business cards. Please note that in order to ensure optimal networking for all attendees, no more than two individuals from the same company may attend.

November 1

Boston TechBreakfast

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.

November 2

MassChallenge Boston Awards 2016

The MassChallenge Awards is the grand finale of the Boston startup accelerator program, shining a spotlight on the world’s most promising entrepreneurs.

Join top influencers in the innovation community to celebrate entrepreneurship & startup innovation! Entrepreneurs, investors, corporate executives, politicians, and philanthropists will witness the unveiling of MassChallenge winners and over $1 million in cash awards.

November 2

Lean Startup Week

If you can’t make it to this year’s Lean Startup Week in San Francisco, don’t miss out on hearing from the entrepreneurs and thought leaders powering today’s innovation. As their official live stream partner, General Assembly brings the action to your local campus with a community viewing event.

November 4

More Disruption Please Healthcare Hackathon

athenahealth is thrilled to announce our 7th MDP Hackathon as part of our More Disruption Please (MDP) program!

Join us Friday, November 4th at Meadhall to kick-off our weekend hackathon–drinks and snacks on us!

Not hacking? No problem! You’re still welcome to join us for a lively evening of discussion and networking.

November 5

Generation Citizen Civic Tech Challenge

At Generation Citizen’s third annual Greater Boston Civic Tech Challenge, we’re bringing together top Greater Boston tech innovators with passionate middle school students for a day-long hackathon that will create solutions for Greater Boston’s toughest problems. Young people from the Generation Citizen action civics program connect with developers, digital marketers, graphic designers and data analysts to build civic tech innovations that accelerate their ability to advance change on local issues.

Our awards reception will highlight each team’s work, as they present their ideas to 250+ local innovators, event honoree Diane Hessan, and a judging panel of Greater Boston’s top civic leaders.

November 5

Black Girls CODE Boston Chapter Presents: Game Jam!

This workshop will be geared toward introducing participants to animation, gaming, and interactive stories. The workshop is designed to encourage student-driven learning, as participants think analytically, design, play and code in real-time.

All Black Girls CODE events are geared towards introducing participants to the technological universe and encouraging them to pursue careers as Tech Creators and Entrepreneurs.

November 7

Tech Tackles Cancer

Join us and St. Baldrick’s in the fight against childhood cancer and to prove, once and for all, that Boston has the greatest tech community in the country.

November 9

TUGG Tech Trivia Night

Join TUGG, KPMG, Goodwin and our friends from across Boston tech for a fun night of trivia!
All proceeds benefit Generation Citizen, a TUGG portfolio nonprofit whose mission is to empower youth through civic engagement – highly appropriate given that this event is being held the day after election day!

November 10

Greater Boston Civic Tech Challenge Hackathon Reception

As part of the Generation Citizen action civics program, students across Greater Boston middle and high schools will launch action projects to advocate for change on our community’s most significant problems. By November 5th, GC students will have identified a significant community issue, analyzed the issue to identify its systemic root causes, and be just about ready to reach out to local decision-makers and constituents to advocate for change on their issue. By partnering with Civic Tech Challenge hack teams at this key point in the GC process, students will have innovative add-ons that can bolster their case and accelerate their ability to be changemakers.

November 11-13

MIT Energy Hackathon

The MIT Energy Hackathon is a helpful platform for students to learn real-world challenges, generate ideas, find startup partners, and win cash awards. For companies, it acts as a powerful crowdsourcing platform that generates a breadth of potential solutions for their challenge.

November 16

Conversation in Civic Innovation: Broadband Equity

Please join us for a discussion on Broadband Equity. Panelists will include:

  • Keynote: Susan Crawford, Berkman Center
  • Anne Schwieger, City of Boston
  • Damon Cox, The Boston Foundation
  • Sharon Gillett, Microsoft
  • Chris Mitchell, Institute for Local Self Reliance
  • Theo Hanna, Tech Goes Home

Cathy Wissink is moderating this event

November 16

State of Innovation Meetup Series: Data-Driven Transformation

State of Innovation Meetup Series: Data-Driven Transformation presented by Janeiro Digital.

Join us at Janeiro Digital’s office to explore how organizations can succeed with the right mix of talent and technology. We’ll be discussing this in the form of a panel with industry professionals followed by a night of networking.

November 18

MassTLC Transform

TRANSFORM is a who’s who get together exposing industry leaders, policy makers, and academia to the broadest, biggest ideas happening in the world around us today and its impact – both good and bad – on us as individuals, our companies, and our workforce.

November 19

Big Data Automation Summit

In the world of Big Data, human insufficiency and restricted budget may prove a hindrance in leveraging data for different purposes. Some of the reasons why we need Big Data include countering competition, improving decision-making, devising better workflow of operations, and boosting profitability. Big Data automation will transform the way in which virtual and cloud environments are managed. On bringing virtualization and the cloud into the automation platform, assigning resources to workload processing as per the requirement and then returning those resources when the workload is complete will be easier.

Join us at Big Data Automation Summit and meet leading industry experts to discuss opportunities in the future of Big Data & Automation.

November 19-20

Lady Problems Hackathon – Boston

We talk a lot about the lack of women in technology. What’s keeping them out? The Lady Problem Global Hackathon Series, presented by AngelHack, is launching in a city near you!
The Lady Problems Global Hackathon Series is setting out to answer that question. We’re challenging our community of 100,000+ women and men, developers, designers, entrepreneurs to create technology that will address the problems that prevent female entrepreneurship.