AINow Symposium Recap: Addressing the Social Implications of AI

As artificial intelligence gains exposure in media and public discourse, so too does the demand for spaces focused on studying its systems and their ramifications. Last weekend, one such space was brought to the ground through AINow, a research initiative (and soon-to-be NY-based research center!) Co-Founded by Kate Crawford and Meredith Whittaker and dedicated to addressing the social implications of machine learning and artificial intelligence. This year, the symposium was hosted at the an equally forward-thinking MIT Media Lab. Attendance alone wasn’t sufficient, each guest came with the instruction to think about the proposed prompt: “What issue does this community most need to address within the next 12 months”?

Discussion was curated through the organization of an Experts Workshop, an “invite-only, interdisciplinary convening of top practitioners and researchers on the near-term social and economic implications of artificial intelligence.” Attendees presented brief flash talks around four previously-defined focus areas: Bias and inclusion, labor and automation, rights and liberties, and ethics and governance. Quickly, conversation shifted towards the need to recognize the uneven distribution of power when designing AI systems and design for full-spectrum community inclusion. Discrepancies within standardization were discussed as well, including the need to define malpractice and calls to better understand the processes involved in measuring, collecting, and sampling data. Researchers examined the notions of biased training data, disparity in accuracy rates, false reinforcement bias, cumulative disadvantage of background predictions, and need to create mechanisms that correct for historical injustice. Actionable suggestions for reshaping governance and countering economic displacement were debated.

A group discussion followed, organized to stimulate catalyzing questions and comments around AI’s interactivity with research, industry, and activism. Some of the resulting statements are as follows:

  • What does it look like to build an algorithmically-mediated public space?
  • How do we democratize the AI space?
  • We need to establish more transparency around defined goals & penalty for errors
  • How can we increase social knowledge around AI nationally & trans-nationally?
  • We need to move from power thinking to design thinking, as well as from what is to be done to what is already happening
  • We need to address the community segregation: If we want AI for the world, the world needs to be part of the conversation
  • We need for more discussion around different definitions of bias
  • How is law channeling AI in the US and how do we create important accountability?
  • There’s no silver bullet or perfect fairness — we need to make things more fair and equal. We should be looking at who is least included, not designing for the most included. We need to normalize admissions for self-guilt

In the evening, the space opened up for the general public symposium, which hosted three panels around Bias Traps in AI, Governance Gaps, and Rights and Liberties in an Automated World. A lot of the above topics were discussed at large, each with Q&A from participants.

AI isn’t new (It’s existed since the 50’s), but recent sensationalism around its discussion validates its ever-increasing prominence in public life. Though the AINow community is new and developing, it is strongly backed. Organizations like the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Fund were recently founded to support the humanities, social sciences, and other disciplines in the development of AI. See here to view the Experts Workshop, here to view the public symposium, or here to subscribe to AINow’s updates.

July’s Civic Tech Events

We’re headed right into the heart of summer. Here are some top picks for events this July:

July 6

Labor and Employment Law Issues Related to Social Networking

Employers who use social media will find that they may be violating rules under the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), regulations from the Federal Trade commission, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, the National Labor Relations Act, the Health Insurance and Portability Act, and state security requirements, and many other laws.

Disciplining employees for their comments on social media can be a minefield. Not disciplining employees for their comments on social media can be a minefield. What is an employer to do?

Courts and administrative agencies are finally handing down decisions that address these legal concerts. The decisions are specific to social media, including variations by industry. This webinar will cover all of the legal issues and the decisions being made, and how to make sure your policies, actions, are in compliance.

July 10-11

NY Community Technology Skillshare

Join us for this participant-driven, interactive gathering to share knowledge and best practices in the use of technology and creative media in support of social justice efforts.

New York Community Technology Skillshare strives to be a collaborative space for nonprofit staff, social justice organizers, techies, activists, and students to gain new skills, discover new allies, and collectively envision the future of free and open technology to support positive social change. We hope to see you there in July!

NYTimes Cities for Tomorrow

How do the greatest cities succeed? On July 10–11, The New York Times will convene the world’s foremost industry experts, policymakers, developers, creative visionaries, entrepreneurs and others at Cities for Tomorrow, the must-attend event for leaders who are shaping the urban environments of the future.

July 11

Data Visualization for Improved Communication

People understand visual information quicker and more easily than numeric information, yet many professionals who work with large volumes of data routinely present information and analysis using numbers in a tabular format like an Excel spreadsheet. In a recent survey, more than 56%1 of respondents said they want to not only see data presented visually, but they want more types of visualizations to choose from and over 70%1said they want more interactivity with the data. Research shows we more readily understand visuals, and businesses are demanding more and better visualization of data. Visualizations help people spot trends, anomalies, exceptions and outliers. However, we are not naturally good at presenting data visually. This course will provide a grounding in basic data visualization concepts. 

23 Guidelines to Avoid an AI Apocalypse According to Experts (workshop)

JOIN US for this special, interactive workshop and discussion, featuring guest presenter, Dr. Seth Baum, Executive Director of the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute, as we explore the intent, meaning, and implications of these AI guidelines, and whether having a set of existing guidelines can really safeguard humanity from AI-catastrophe.

July 2017 NY Tech Meetup and Afterparty – PITCH THE CITY

Join us for NYC’s most famous and longest running monthly tech event! You’ll see a fantastic lineup of New York tech companies presenting live demos of their products, followed by an afterparty where you can network with the community and meet our demoers and sponsors.

For July’s event, NY Tech Meetup will team up with Blank Space and the City of New York to host the final event of the ‘Driverless Future Challenge.’ Teams from around the world submitted proposals to answer a complicated question: How can NYC prepare for autonomous cars? The four finalists in the challenge will pitch NYC Government officials and technologists at the event and the winner will be crowned live in front of the Meetup audience!

Voodoo Manufacturing Happy Hour

Come out for a tour of Voodoo Manufacturing, free food, drinks, and a raffle for two lucky winners to leave with $300 of free Voodoo Manufacturing 3D Printing credits each! RSVP with all of your relevent info to enter the raffle!

July 12

New York City Women in Digital Kick Off

Join the most powerful Women in Digital for our first ever New York City meeting.

Refresh yourself with a break from the madness at work and meet your amazing sisters in arms of Women in Digital. We’re about to start a New York Chapter, and you’ll be there on the ground floor of it all. Find out more and submit nominations for your open New York Board of Advisory positions by clicking here:

July 13

Black Women Talk Tech Summer Social

We’re inviting everyone to our first Summer Social Thursday, July 13th, 6:30-9:30pm!

Join investors, technologists, founders & industry vets of color to build new networks and celebrate our first BWTT Tech Trailblazer! Janet Bashen, President of Bashen Corp. will be honored for her achievement as the first black woman to receive a U.S. patent for software technology.

July 14

Save the date for Machine Eatable at Civic Hall!

July 17

IoT NY #45: AgTech’s bright future: Growing food (and data) with IoT

AgTech spans indoor and urban agriculture, precision agriculture, closed-loop systems, and a growing body of IoT-enabled solutions. This month, we’ll hear from a panel of AgTech leaders who will discuss investor trends, prototyping, grower adoption, challenges and opportunities for the industry.

July 19

NYC Open Data Summer Updates

For this month’s Civic Hall Member Showcase, we are excited to present the NYC Open Data Team!

Manufacturing for Startups: Fulfillment & Logistics

We teamed up with some of New York City’s best talent for the Futureworks Incubator Workshop Series.

Futureworks Incubator champions and supports the growth of hardware startups across New York City. Made possible by NYCEDC and spearheaded by SecondMuse and Imagination in Space, the Incubator’s workshop series focuses on the top priorities in a company’s journey. On July 19, we focus on Fulfillment and Logistics.

July 25

Buses, Beers And Bytes: A Happy Hour For Tech And Public Transit In New York

Join us on Tuesday, July 25th for a fun night of drinks, schmoozing and nerding out about New York City’s bus network. Hear from leading voices in the effort to upgrade New York City’s bus network and get a behind-the-scenes look at some of the solutions that can help make buses faster and more reliable.

Microsoft Store and B~STEM Host One-Day Only Events

Microsoft stores, U Village and Bellevue Square.According to, only 6.7 percent of women are graduating with STEM degrees. With this we have a responsibility today to educate and inspire females of all ages to advance our world by pursuing careers in traditionally male dominated industries.

B~STEM Project and Microsoft Store understand this responsibility. B~STEM Project is an organization focused on helping young girls and women to engage, learn and grow within business and STEM-related disciplines across industries. From June 23 – 30, B~STEM will host We Hack Too, an eight-day virtual hackathon. Select Microsoft Store locations are excited to host kick-off events on Friday, June 23, and set everyone up for a week of fun with a Business Development and Design Incubator.

The events will give high school and college women opportunities to collaborate with professional mentors to design products and develop business strategies, while 8 to 12-year-olds will be invited to attend coding and gaming workshops.

These free events will take place in the following store near you:

Each store event will have its own unique theme spanning STEM-related topics including clean energy, gaming, entertainment and digital media, biotechnology and tech startups. To learn more about the topic of the event at your local Microsoft Store and to register for the event, please visit

Not located in a city with an event? Microsoft Store offers a range of free programs, year-round that empower youth by providing direct access to technology and hands-on learning. If you haven’t been to a Microsoft Store program yet, take a look at the video below that captures Microsoft Store YouthSpark camp energy and testimonials from real student and parent participants.

To see a full list of available in-store events and programs at your local Microsoft Store visit,

A Summer of STEM at Microsoft Store

Launch into summer with skills-based training at the Microsoft Store!

Our Flagship Microsoft Store at Fifth Avenue is bringing STEM skills to students with a series of FREE YouthSpark summer camps for students aged 6 and up.

This summer series kicks off with an 8-hour hackathon called B-STEM: We Hack Too. We Hack Too is an 8-day virtual hackathon that includes a FREE 1-day launch event inside our Microsoft Store on Friday, June 23. The 1-day event is a Business Development & Design Incubator where girls ages 8-13 attend 2 hours game design workshops (9 am, 12:30 pm and 5 pm).

In addition, high school and college level women collaborate with professional mentors to design products and develop business strategies (8:30am – 7:30 pm). Mentors, Speakers, Food, Swag, Tech Prizes and more. Pre-registration is now open and space is limited. To register and for more information visit

Then, the Store starts its summer series with weekly camps for students:

For students aged 6-8:

Minecraft Hour of Code

Students ages 8 and older can save the day and program Minecraft mobs how to behave in our free 90 minute Minecraft Hour of Code. Participants will learn coding concepts such as randomness, entities, loops and events. No previous coding experience is required.

Students will also learn:

  • How computers perform instructions in a sequence
  • How to create a list of instructions to complete a task
  • How to iterate on solutions to complete a task

Make Your Own Story with PowerPoint and Word

In this free hands-on 2 hour camp, students ages 6 to 8 will learn how to create and tell a story using Microsoft PowerPoint and Word. They will explore using drawing tools, selecting and sizing images and icons, creating backgrounds and changing fonts. Activities will focus on learning through hands on guided experiences and collaborative learning in small groups.

At the end of the camp, participants will:

  • Be familiar with key tools in PowerPoint and Word
  • Feel confident using a Surface Device and Pen
  • Create an original story with text and images in a small group

For students aged 8-12:

Code and Create Games with Ozobot Robotics

In this free hands-on 2 hour camp, students ages 8–12 will learn to code and create games with Ozobot robotics. They’ll explore programming the Evo robot with block coding, from completing simple commands right through to creating a dance game. They’ll also learn how robotics are used in the 21st Century and be inspired with how they can be involved.

At the end of the camp, participants will:

  • Be familiar with how robots work
  • Have hands-on experience with block coding and how to program the Evo robot
  • Understand the importance of robotics

Code and Create with Collage Me

Learn how to code in this hands-on programming camp. During the free two-hour Camp, students ages 8 to 12 will work in a real software development environment, gaining experience with Touch Develop. Participants will use their creativity and imagination to develop a unique personal collage that can be shared with family and friends.

At the end of this camp, participants will:

  • Have increased confidence in their technical and coding skills
  • Improve their computational and creative thinking
  • Read and understand code in the Touch Develop environment
  • Create and publish a coded script containing a personal collage

It is recommended that your student bring their own set of headphones for an optimal experience.

Create Digital Art with Fresh Paint

In this free hands-on 2 hour camp, students ages 8 to 12 will learn to create and share their own digital art with the Fresh Paint app for Windows 10. They’ll explore the basics of Fresh Paint, using lifelike oil and watercolors, pastels, and more to craft their own creations. They’ll also get a sneak peek of advanced digital art skills like mixing paint and layering media.

At the end of the camp, participants will:

  • Be familiar with the creative possibilities of digital drawing and painting
  • Have experience with the Fresh Paint layout and tools
  • Create original artwork and share it with peers
  • Learn how to share their art with the swipe of a finger

Minecraft Hour of Code

Students ages 8 and older can save the day and program Minecraft mobs how to behave in our free 90 minute Minecraft Hour of Code. Participants will learn coding concepts such as randomness, entities, loops and events. No previous coding experience is required.

Students will also learn:

  • How computers perform instructions in a sequence
  • How to create a list of instructions to complete a task
  • How to iterate on solutions to complete a task

Kodu Makerspace Event

Create rich and exciting games with Kodu Game Lab in this free, beginner-level coding camp for students ages 8 to 12.

They’ll work on Kodu games like Boku’s Amazing Race, Flashy Fishbots, and Air Delivery. In the process, they learn how interesting and powerful games can be created with simple building blocks and techniques. Participants will: analyze and revise game character, write code to create game action, collaboratively plan and create a Kodu game, give and receive peer feedback, and explore the iterative design process. Some activities will be interactive tutorials, while others entail hands-on, open-ended game design. Every session will include collaborative design and development activities.

This four-day camp lasts two hours per day, and students must attend the days consecutively.

Get Creative with 3D in Windows 10 Camp

The world we live in is multidimensional, so shouldn’t our art be as well? Students ages 8-12 will bring their imagination to life by learning new Paint 3D in Windows 10. This free 2-hour field trip offers a high-energy, collaborative environment for participants to fuel their creativity and learn key tools and features of the 3D app.

At the end of the field trip, participants will have:

  • Learned the fundamentals of the Paint 3D app and all about community
  • Learned how to express their ideas in three dimensions by creating their own 3D designs
  • Hands-on experience with Microsoft devices and software via a scavenger hunt through Microsoft Store

For students 13+:

Learn to Code with Flatverse

In this free coding camp, students ages 13 and over will use Touch Develop, an interactive programming environment website, to create and publish their own video game called Flatverse.

As they build their game, they learn about various computer programming and coding concepts, including screen coordinates, random numbers, objects and functions, and more. Throughout the camp series, they will take a deeper dive into these programming and coding concepts to gain more confidence and skill. The ultimate goal is for participants to gain an appreciation for coding’s role in the games they may play in their daily lives, and to provide an inspirational foundation for pursuing their interest in computer science.

This four-day camp lasts two hours per day, and students must attend the days consecutively.

Shoot Edit & Share with PicsArt 

Increase your photo shooting and editing creativity with this free YouthSpark Camp. During this camp series, students ages 13 and older will learn how to use PicsArt, an interactive editing, drawing, and collage app. This app, which is available on Windows 10 devices, includes numerous photo-editing features, customizable filters, text options, a collage maker, and a camera. Learn how to transform photos into works of art with just the tip of your finger.​​

At the end of this Workshop, participants will:​​

  • Know how to use a powerful photo-editing software​​
  • Understand composition and best practices for photography​​Learn to sketch and turn anything into a drawing
  • Create easy graphic design edits​​
  • Create amazing photo edits ​​
  • Leave with a certificate of completion and an image portfolio​​

Create Digital Art with Fresh Paint

Explore the freedom and power of creating original digital art with this free 2 hour camp on the Fresh Paint app for Windows 10. Students ages 13 and older will use an array of tools to create lifelike paintings, original drawings, collages, and so much more. They’ll take a tour of Fresh Paint basics, then explore more advanced skills like blending paint colors and layering mixed media to create their own unique works of art. Activities and experiences are a central part of the class, with opportunities to share artwork and to learn along with peers.

At the end of the camp, participants will:

  • Know some of the creative possibilities of digital art
  • Be familiar with brushes, mixing palettes, canvas options, and more
  • Explore features like switching tools, mixing colors, and importing pictures
  • Create meaningful artwork and share it with peers
  • Learn how to share art with the swipe of a finger

Start Your Own Business

Success has no boundaries. This free four-session camp series helps students ages 13 and older turn their passion into a great entrepreneurial business idea. Participants get guidance developing their ideas into a robust business plan and a polished pitch ready to share with the world.

Each two-hour session takes students through a series of engaging hands-on group activities to introduce key business concepts, including:

• How to create a product or service
• Marketing and promotion
• Pricing and costs
• Manufacturing and distribution

During the final session, participants will have the opportunity to present their complete business plan for feedback and insight.

Register today to reserve a camp spot at

Looking Ahead to Personal Democracy Forum, June 8-9, 2017

As we gear up for #PDF17, we thought it would be a great time to revisit some of the highlights from last year’s Personal Democracy Forum! For background, the Personal Democracy Forum (PDF) is an annual conference that began in 2004. The conference aims to bring technologists, campaigners, hackers, journalists, academics, activists, and more together to focus on solving society’s biggest problems.

Last year, in the heat of the 2016 election, panels and workshops covered everything from “Government as a Digital Service” to how technology was being used by peer-to-peer organizing networks to support female candidates for office. A highlight of the event was the launch of Civic Hall Labs, the non-profit R&D branch of NYC’s Civic Hall, a center for civic tech innovation.

Get ready for PDF 2017 by watching a few of the talks below and be sure to take a look at the exciting line-up for this year’s conference, June 8-9.

Comedienne Luna Malbroux discusses her app and  how humor is a critical way to to broach heavy topics.

Jason Mogus, principal strategis at Communicopia explains “How Advocacy Campaign are Won in the 21st Century”

danah boyd of Microsoft Research cautions against the risks of bad coding from an environmental and social justice perspective

Follow along for updates from this year’s conference and join the conversation on social media using #PDF17 and @CivicHall.

Register for Personal Democracy Forum 2017 here.

June’s Civic Tech Events

Summer is finally fast approaching. Join us at these top events in the NYC area this June:

June 3

Civic Imagination: Designing and Building a Better Future

Join Boston Civic Media’s third annual conference for a day of inspiring keynotes, presentations and networking with peers and community leaders around igniting civic creativity. Dive into topics including media literacy, youth-led advocacy, DIY activist technologies, and creative storytelling. We’ll also be announcing the first ever inter-campus curriculum addressing climate change.

Each year, Boston Civic Media convenes its growing network of faculty, students, activists, journalists, policymakers and nonprofits all invested in “civic media,” or media that creates social change through art, design, and technology. Our theme for this year’s conference is Civic Imagination and we have an incredible lineup of presenters to share new strategies, insights and approaches for collectively re-imagining public life in Boston.

Some of our team will be up in Boston for the Civic Media Consortium’s Civic Imagination conference on Saturday, June 3rd. It’s free, and you should join in!

June 6

June 2017 NY Tech Meetup and Afterparty

This month’s NY Tech Meetup will feature a roster of civic tech demos, organized with Civic Hall.

Writing Government Information for People with Cognitive Disabilities

No one likes unclear information about rules and laws – but for people with cognitive disabilities, badly written and formatted information is itself a barrier to accessibility. So, how do you write so that people with cognitive disabilities can read, understand, and use your content? In this presentation, we will look at how simply written and properly formatted content can help improve accessibility for everyone, including people with cognitive disabilities. We will also look at how challenges faced by people with cognitive disabilities in accessing information are caused by bad writing or formatting. Finally, there will be examples of good and bad information about regulations.

June 8-9

Personal Democracy Forum

This conference will bring together top technologists, campaigners, hackers, government officials, journalists, opinion-makers,  and academics for two days of game-changing talks, workshops, and networking opportunities – celebrating the power and potential of tech to make real change happen.

Our entire team will be at Personal Democracy Forum at NYU on June 8th and 9thRegister now!

Come join us at our sessions, including:

  • June 8th, time TBA: Measure globally, act locally: What can data do for neighborhoods?
    The open data movement has matured from national mandates to serving true needs at the neighborhood level. Come discover groundbreaking local projects to help neighborhood groups and community boards leverage data to improve decision-making and create tangible outcomes for residents.
  • June 9th, 2pmA 2016 Bright Spot: Breakthroughs in Voter Information
    Featuring yours truly, plus civic tech superfriends Donny Bridges, Carmen Hicks, and Elana Berkowitz.
  • June 9th, time TBA: Rob Bernard, Chief Environmental Strategist at Microsoft

June 11

Open Data for All Workshop in the Bronx

The City of New York shares more than 1600 datasets with New Yorkers – these datasets hold information about where we all live, work, play and pray. Come learn how to use the NYC Open Data Portal (where this data is available) in a free Open Data for All Workshop at St. Mary’s Recreation Center in the Bronx on Sunday June 11th from 9-3:30pm.

June 12

Tech Trends And Geo: Today And Tomorrow

The theme of this meetup is to look forward, to experience and discuss innovations and trends happening across the technology landscape today, things we’re reading about in tech magazine articles, watching go viral in the business and consumer space, and think about how we can use them to improve the capabilities of our geospatial tools, enhance our geospatial data, do better spatial analysis, manage our data better, make better maps and better decisions in our work.

June 13

LMHQ Women’s Breakfast: Who Run the World? Girls.

Join us at LMHQ for our final women’s breakfast of the season, in partnership with Civic Hall’s #CivicWomen network, on Tuesday, June 13th for a discussion about tools to help more women run for elected positions. We’ll talk about what’s worked, and where there’s room for improvement.

Hear from Marya Stark, CoFounder of Emerge America, the premier training program for Democratic women who want to run for public office with programs in eighteen states, and Alexis Grenell, CoFounder of Pythia Public, a New York-based communications, government and political strategy firm providing strategic planning services to non-profit, political, and corporate clients, in conversation with our own Jessica Lappin, President of the Alliance for Downtown New York and former member of the New York City Council.

Community Transitions: Making A Difference In Military Reintegration

Only approximately half of the 21 million Veterans and their families nationwide are accessing care from the Veterans Administration. Despite over 1 million community and non-profit resources available, even fewer are taking advantage of these opportunities, leading to higher rates of Veteran suicide, homelessness, and seclusion. Changes here can lead to changes in every under-served population. Come hear what makes for a successful reintegration from the military to civilian sectors, courtesy of a panel of local Veterans and military spouses who navigated transition. Find out what is working in the local community, ask your questions, and help like-minded individuals find solutions on how we can do things better for each other.

June 14

Green Infrastructure Grant Program – Summer Workshop

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection offers a grant program for private property owners in combined sewer areas of New York City. The minimum requirement is to manage 1.25″ of stormwater runoff from the contributing impervious area. If selected, DEP will provide funds for the design and construction of the green infrastructure system. Eligible projects include blue roofs, rain gardens, green roofs, porous pavement and rainwater harvesting on private property in combined sewer areas.

June 15-16

Collective Intelligence Conference

CI is the fifth annual interdisciplinary conference dedicated to advancing our understanding of collective intelligence and the workings of groups. The conference will take place at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering on June 15-16, 2017.

Collective Intelligence 2017 will emphasize research in service of the public good and projects that address societal problems. Together we will explore the impact of Internet technology and big data on the ways in which people come together to communicate and combine knowledge and skills. Coming from myriad disciplines and fields, conference participants share how connecting groups of people, information, and machines can lead to more intelligent behavior and more effective problem solving.

The event brings together researchers from academia, business, non-profit, and government to share insights, ideas, and experiences and to collaborate on the design of better approaches for fostering the use of collective intelligence. This year’s conference will place special emphasis on public interest applications of collective intelligence, namely the role of groups and collective intelligence in governing and in solving societal challenges.

*tickets start at $299*

June 19

Dev Week Conference

Details TBA

June 21

ioby Summer Party

Come celebrate with a community of fellow changemakers – and officially kick off summer in style – at ioby’s Summer Party! We are delighted to recognize the work of our amazing honorees:

Micah Sifry, Executive Director of Civic Hall and Co-Founder of Personal Democracy Media,

Partnerships for Parks, a public and private partnership that supports and champions a growing network of leaders caring and advocating for neighborhood parks and green spaces,

And Indianapolis-based ioby project leader, master gardener, and Program Manager at Urban Patch, Joyce Moore.

June 22

Purpose x Design

Work is work, right? We don’t need to like it – just need to collect that paycheck.

Obviously not! Our careers are meant to be the manifestations of our dreams come true. We commit ourselves, work hard, and dream big – so why do we often struggle to find purpose in our work? Why does the grass always seem to be greener on the other side, even when we’ve made great efforts to get where we are?

In this Designers + Geeks, we’re bring together a distinguished group of speakers to look at the topic of “purpose.” We’ll discuss ways to find meaning in your work, and lessons learned along the way. Our speakers have lived, learned, and worked hard to build great careers – they’ll share how they did it.

DigiGirlz NYC #MakeWhatsNext

On Wednesday, May 17th, close to one hundred high school girls from the New York Metro area gathered at the Microsoft 11 Times Square office to be inspired to #MakeWhatsNext.

We had a full agenda for the girls with opening remarks made by Microsoft’s Felicia Guity, General Manager Worldwide Education Channel.  She shared very inspiring words, including but not limited to, women have power and why girls should consider STEM.  This sparked insightful questions from the audience.  One of those questions was by a girl who shared she is very good in math however not much on the technical side and wanted to know how she could incorporate math into a technical company.  Well Felicia answered that there are many opportunities even if someone is not technical, referencing varying roles such as Sales, Finance and Human Resources, which are great roles to utilize math skills.

After opening remarks, the girls went through a rotation of three break-out sessions consisting of an Microsoft Technology Center (MTC) Envisioning Demo, Intro to Coding hosted by ScriptEd and a Career Development/Personal Branding session hosted by Germosen Education Advisors and by IAMCP, respectively.

As I rotated with one of the groups through each session I had the opportunity to coincidentally meet one of the girls who will be attending the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program we will be hosting in our 11 Times Square office, small world!  She took a bus, on DigiGirlz Day and will be doing the same each day of the upcoming GWC program, from where she lives to the 11 Times Square office which took a duration of one and half hours, one way.  That is dedication to STEM!

This same girl participated in one of the demos in the Envisioning Center by getting up to experience the Skype Translation feature.  She spoke Spanish which was then translated in English to the recipient and vice versa.  It was quite an exciting experience for her.

During ScriptEd’s Into to Coding, the girls were taught basics of JavaScript.  The session opened with a group circle for introductions and each girl shared a superpower they wanted to have, many wanted to fly.  By the end of the session, each girl had a new superpower, coding!

IAMCP hosted an insightful session on Personal Branding led by Lisa Eyerkuss, President of Corporate Training Group, Inc., and a college prep session hosted by Julissa Germosen, Founder/CEO of Germosen Education Advisors.

After lunch the girls ended their day with an outstanding career panel moderated by Dr. Felicia Guity, our panelists:

  • Nashira Layade – Senior VP @ Realogy Holdings Corp
  • Maurya Couvare – Co-Founder/Executive Director @ ScriptEd
  • Lisa Eyerkuss – Founder/President @ Corporate Training Group
  • Laurie Carey – Founder @ We Connect the Dots
  • CAT Susch – Technology Architect @ Microsoft Corporation
  • Farah Kirshteyn – Senior A.E. @ Arrow Systems Integration

As our DigiGirlz Day ended, I had an opportunity to ask one of the DigiGirlz what her favorite part of the event was and she shared that it was Intro to Code (she loves coding!) and Personal Branding. She is fairly new to coding and learned a lot of new things. On the Personal Branding, she shared that it was something she never thought of and left that session with some great insights.

WOW!  What a day these girls had, they all left with some great new experiences, new friends and were encouraged throughout the day to be themselves and to #MakeWhatsNext.

May’s Civic Tech Events

We’re almost halfway through with 2017 — let’s celebrate May with a jam-packed schedule of events:

Every Thursday in May

How to document apartment repair issues using is a free website you can use to document the repair issues in your apartment. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s Northern Manhattan Office will host a training to help you create an account and start taking action to resolve your repair issues. Thursday, May 4, May 11, May 18, and May 25, 6 – 8 pm, 431 West 125th St.

May 8

NPC17 DataJam with NYC’s Department of City Planning and BetaNYC

Do you want to improve NYC’s capital planning process?

Can to use your data science and GIS skills to improve NYC capital planning process?


Then, join us on Monday, 8 May, from 9:00 AM to 3:00 pm to improve NYC’s Department of City Planning (DCP) Facilities Explorer, a pioneering urban planning open source and open data platform!

May 9

May 2017 NY Tech Meetup and Afterparty – Creative Tech Theme

Join us for NYC’s most famous and longest running monthly tech event! You’ll see a fantastic lineup of New York tech companies presenting live demos of their products, followed by an afterparty where you can network with the community and meet our demoers and sponsors.

This month we are partnering with Creative Tech Week to showcase a select few of their featured experts showing us the latest technologies being put to creative use.

In addition, we’ll have demos from the Top 3 finishers at hackNY’s Spring 2017 hackathon!

May 10

Smart Cities Innovation: Action-Focused Perspectives From Key Leaders

NUMA New York and Civic Hall are at the center of innovation in the civic space and we would like to invite the community to join us for “Smart Cities NYC Recap Event” taking place the week after the summit on Wedesday, May 10th at 6:30pm at Civic Hall (118 W. 22nd St., 12th Floor, Buzz 12A when you arrive).

May 14

Neighborhood Challenge Applications Due

The NYC Department of Small Business Services, along with partners New York City Economic Development Corporation and New York City Business Assistance Corporation, are proud to offer the Neighborhood Challenge Innovation Grant competition.

This year’s Neighborhood Challenge 5.0 competition pairs nonprofit community organizations and tech companies to create and implement tools that address specific commercial district issues. The competition seeks to make awards of up to $100,000 to fund innovative ideas that use data-driven capacity building solutions to improve operations, target services, or address local public policy challenges.

May 18

Databite No. 99: Whitney Phillips and Ryan M. Milner

Data & Society Research Institute is pleased to welcome Whitney Phillips and Ryan M. Milner as they share excerpts and discuss their new release, The Ambivalent Internet: Mischief, Oddity, and Antagonism Online (Polity Press, April 2017).

Successes and Challenges for ICANN and Beyond

Join Chris Mondini of ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, to hear how multistakeholder participation helped globalize the Internet and learn what is on the horizon – for Internet addresses, technical coordination, and throny geopolitical issues.

May 23

NYC BigApps 2017 Finalist Expo & Winner Award Ceremony

Join us as we celebrate another exciting year of the NYC BigApps competition! At this culminating event, we will be showcasing the finalists from each of the three BigApps challenges at the Finalist Expo. The Judges will then announce the Grand Prize Winners during the Winner Awards Ceremony, followed by a cocktail reception.

May 24

Civic Hall Presents: NYC Open Data Spring Updates

For this month’s Civic Hall Member Showcase, we are excited to present the NYC Open Data Team!
The NYC Open Data Team recently finished a collaboration with Reboot, doing research on the users of open data and developing different personas to support the team’s upcoming user acquisition efforts. Come see a preview of this research and hear other updates and announcements from the City’s Chief Analytics Officer Dr. Amen Ra Mashariki.

May 25

We Don’t Learn Alone

The apps we build are more important to society and culture than ever, but the way we learn how to make them is often completely anti-social. What could a more connected and human mode look like?
The use of permissioned blockchains in the public sector has the potential to create a new balance point between two extremes: pure algorithmic governance (e.g., Bitcoin) and pure human governance (e.g., your local city council). This talk will explore if and how blockchain can help bring automation, transparency, and audit-ability to the world’s governing systems and institutions. Does the strategic introduction of blockchain-enabled validation mechanisms and smart contracts offer a means for rescuing public confidence in governing institutions while cutting costs and better ensuring fair outcomes per policy? Behlendorf will discuss these and other questions related to blockchain’s coming impact on how we govern.

May 30

Harlem to Haarlem Pitchfest

We’re Having our Harlem 2 Haarlem Pitchfest again this year! we are looking for 3 Harlem based tech companies to present their business to the audience. If you are part of a business that would like to show our Netherlands friends the innovation in Harlem, New York please send an email to

May 31

Startup Cities — Brad Hargreaves

Join Boston Civic Media’s third annual conference for a day of inspiring keynotes, presentations and networking with peers and community leaders around igniting civic creativity. Dive into topics including media literacy, youth-led advocacy, DIY activist technologies, and creative storytelling. We’ll also be announcing the first ever inter-campus curriculum addressing climate change.

June 8-9

Personal Democracy Forum

This conference will bring together top technologists, campaigners, hackers, government officials, journalists, opinion-makers,  and academics for two days of game-changing talks, workshops, and networking opportunities – celebrating the power and potential of tech to make real change happen.

The Rise of Smart Cities, From NYC to Tel Aviv

Israel is a global leader in technology and innovation, giving rise to companies like Waze and Mobileye (acquired last week by Intel for $15B).

Last month I had the pleasure of joining 1,500+ participants in Tel Aviv at iNNOVEX2017, Israel’s premier conference on technology and innovation, at which I met with a number of impressive Israeli startups and gave a presentation on smart cities:


Because much has been said about smart cities, I focused my presentation on three truths:

  1. The decentralization of Silicon Valley is causal to the rise of smart cities;
  2. “Smart cities” means many things beyond drones and self-driving cars;
  3. Technology is not the challenge.

Decentralization is good.

Once upon a time, you had to be in Silicon Valley to work in technology.

That is changing domestically and around the world, as resource access is increasingly democratized:


Number of venture-capital deals, 2012

The 12 Cities at the Forefront of Global Tech – Savills World Research, Feb 2015

This shift in regional affinity is also contributing to a shift in demographic.

It wasn’t long ago that many technologists looked like this:


That stereotype is rapidly dissolving, as technologists increasingly look like this:

Credit: Gaza Sky Geeks

Credit: The Kemach Foundation in Israel

Members of the White House science, technology, and digital service organizations in 2015.

This growing diversity and decentralization lead to increased access to opportunity and reduced implicit bias in technology. As it relates to smart cities, this also means that technologists are no longer concentrated in Silicon Valley, but are located all across the country and thus more attuned to the needs of their users, resulting in services being designed with (not for) local residents. This intimate familiarity is critical to the success of smart cities, as:

  • what works in Omaha may not work with the hills and seismic activity of San Francisco;
  • what works with the single-story homes and 900+ miles of highway in Los Angeles may not work with the tall buildings and city streets of Manhattan;
  • what works with the Internet connectivity of Kenya (86% coverage of 4 Mbps broadband) may not work with the digital infrastructure of Uganda (12% coverage), despite sharing a border and having roughly similar populations.

It’s not all about drones.

“Smart cities” often elicits thoughts of autonomous vehicles: self-driving cars, delivery drones, etc.

In fact, the most impactful aspects of a city becoming “smarter” are much more fundamental to the fabric of society:

When we expand the scope of what constitutes smart cities, we ensure the application of technology in the most meaningful ways.

Technology is not the challenge.

While recent advances in technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence, computer vision, etc. have enabled various aspects of smart cities, many of the largest hurdles to adoption are not technological in nature.

Many policy implications exist:

Ethical considerations also exist:

Further resources

There is a lot of activity around smart cities, including an interesting talk by FCC CIO David Bray at SXSW last month and various Smart City Expo events planned for 2017 globally.

Finally, don’t miss Smart Cities NYC ‘17 coming up this May 3–6 in New York!

NYC Computer Science Opportunity Fair Brings STEM to Students

Last week, we partnered with CSNYC, Computer Science for All, the Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS), and others to sponsor New York’s largest annual college and career inspiration event for CS-oriented public high school students. The fourth annual NYC Computer Science Opportunity Fair hosted over 2,000 students from 60 schools across all five boroughs as well as 90 companies, colleges, and extracurricular programs. Invited students were chosen based on their participation in TEALS, NYC CS4All, and other CS and career and technical education programs. The program’s aimed to excite students about the myriad of educational and professional opportunities that often result from a CS education. By showcasing the culture & products of leading tech companies, the fair nurtures the aspirations of blossoming young technologists.

Colleges, companies, and various extracurricular programs demonstrated the experiences of project-building in academic and workforce environments. Relevant CS departments exhibited current and past research projects and informed students about offerings within their respective programs. Our exhibit booth featured an interactive gaming station as well as the opportunity to Skype with a Microsoft engineer. Most notably popular was our Intelligent Kiosk demo, which used the suite of Cognitive Services APIs to guess students’ ages and emotion relayed via facial expression. HoloLens experiences were also offered for students who wanted to try out augmented reality.

As students perused booths, they had the option to scan their badge’s QR code by staffers. After the fair, students could then use their badge to log into the fair’s web portal and view info about each booth visited. Each check-in was worth an entry in the event’s CS raffle, which awarded prizes periodically during the event. Prizes ranged from gift cards to class visits to prominent tech companies. Microsoft submitted two Xbox One units to be raffled off. Check-ins proved to be hugely popular; By the end of the fair, students had checked into booths 8,100 times!

A very excited winner of an XBox One (photo via

Various guest speakers also came in throughout the day for a series of networking, panels, and tech talks. Participating groups included the Tech Leaders Panel, CS@College Panels, Music and Tech Panels, and Lightning Talks. Lightning talk speakers discussed entrepreneurship, data modeling/visualization, computer vision, cloud solutions, online privacy, user research, product management, and more.

Microsoft Tech Evangelist, Adina Shanholtz, demoing HoloLens (photo via

Students who wanted more hands-on activities could put their tech skills to work by contributing to one of the four maker space projects. The stations offered students the ability to connect LED diodes to lithium batteries, create electromyography drawings, build real-world Minecraft creations, or engineer CS puppet animations.

Perhaps the most exciting new program addition this year was the first-ever student showcase. Numerous students from around the NYC area submitted computer science projects to be reviewed for participation. Eight outstanding projects were selected as finalists to pitch to a judging panel comprised of notable tech leaders and Department of Ed administrators. After thorough consideration, two winning teams were chosen: CODEX, who compared A* performance using various paradigms, and Digital Dance, who used Sphero robot balls to program a mixed-media performance.

Through interactive and hands-on experience, young New Yorkers had a plethora of opportunities to begin to explore their professional interests. Hardware enthusiasts battled robots, physics fanatics learned about quantum computing, and internet of things aficionados played with wearable electronic devices. Companies and universities varied in size, allowing participants to experience differences and weigh which options might seem most appealing as they launch into postsecondary education. Most importantly, it exposes youth at an earlier age, giving them more knowledge, more options, and more resources with which to build a career.

We extend a huge thank you to all of our volunteers and partners who helped us make this event useful and fun for both students and staff. For more information about the CS Opportunity Fair, check out their website at