Meet the 50 Mayors Problem Cities

Bloomberg Philanthropies has announced the 50 Champion Cities that will participate in the final slate of its 2021 Global Mayors Challenge, an annual competition that awards millions of dollars toward civic innovation projects.

The full list of cities can be found on the announcement page, with organizers noting that they hail from 29 countries spread across six continents. The actual pool of applicants was more varied still, representing 631 cities in 99 countries. This year’s challenge will focus on “elevating the most important innovations generated in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic,” Bloomberg wrote in its announcement.

Indeed, the pandemic spurred a massive — and perhaps unprecedented — wave of civic innovation worldwide, as cities maneuvered to solve a range of pressing challenges in rapid fashion. Given the nature of its work, government has traditionally been slow to innovate, with elected decision-makers afforded little room for error and long-standing procedures slowing the pace of experimentation.

During COVID-19, many groups in the civic tech space found government partners eager to collaborate, elected officials quick to give permissions and funding for the work from the private sector to be ample.

As the Mayors Challenge organizers note, the ideas they found in their submissions serve as “a powerful snapshot of innovation priorities.” For the U.S. cities, racial justice was of particular interest. There were 14 U.S. cities total selected this year, with those being Akron, Ohio; Baltimore; Birmingham, Ala.; Columbus, Ohio; Durham, N.C.; Lansing, Mich.; Long Beach, Calif.; Louisville, Ky.; New Orleans; Newark, N.J.; Paterson, N.J.; Phoenix; Rochester, N.Y.; and San Jose, Calif.

Of the 50 announced cities, 15 will be awarded $1 million to go toward the innovation projects they propose, with the ultimate goal being to spread the work to other cities across the world. In the meantime, all 50 champion cities will have access to experts in innovation and data to aid them in their work. (Zack Quaintance)


Philadelphia is conducting a new survey aimed at identifying the digital access needs of its residents.

Aptly dubbed the Philadelphia Household Internet Assessment survey, the project is a collaboration between the city and Wilco Electronic Systems, and it is being formed in support of the city’s ongoing digital equity strategy and efforts, specifically relating to a request for proposal (RFP) released at the end of 2020 by the city’s Office of Innovation and Technology and the Mayor’s Fund for Philadelphia.

In fact, Wilco was chosen as a city partner through that RFP process. The survey is aimed at providing accurate and timely data relating to how many households in Philadelphia are at present without Internet, as well as relying on unreliable or low bandwidth connections. To help in its work, Wilco is assembling a team, which will consist of Centri Tech, SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) and John Horrigan, a national broadband expert.

In addition to numerical data, the survey wants to learn more about awareness in Philadelphia as it relates to the city’s available Internet options, better understanding barriers to access, and how to best incorporate the user experience into related digital equity solutions. Survey responses will also be used in the service of benchmarking current digital equity programs in Philadelphia, including PHLConnectED, which connects eligible families with school children to the Internet free of cost.

The survey will be conducted over the phone in six languages to ensure an inclusive and representative sample of Philadelphia residents. (Zack Quaintance)


The Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) has announced the creation of a distracted driving dashboard.

The dashboard includes a variety of data regarding distracted driving, including the number of related crashes as well as the severity. Users can interact with the dashboard and filter data to show info about specific counties. They can also watch videos on an interactive map of troopers involved in enforcing violations.

According to the announcement of the dashboard, there have been more than 70,000 crashes attributed to distracted driving in Ohio since 2016.

The dashboard is part of a series of internal and public-facing dashboards dedicated to crash data, which are all part of a project called Ohio Statistics and Analytics for Traffic Safety.

Ohio has been working to reduce the number of distracted driving instances with data and stricter enforcement as part of a larger effort to improve safety on the state’s roads.

For more information or to see all the available data, the dashboard can be found online. (Julia Edinger)


Los Angeles County is leading a new initiative to empower young people and small businesses within underserved communities that have been adversely impacted by the digital divide.

To do so, the county is partnering with many groups, including public, private, academic and community-based organizations, noting in a press release that “this coalition of partners provides an abundance of programs and resources that create pathways to personal development and economic growth.”

Organizers are classifying communities impacted by the digital divide as those where between 20.1 percent and 100 percent of households lack Internet access. The new program is dubbed Delete the Digital Divide, and membership to it is free for people ages 12 to 24 who live in the impacted communities.

Interested parties can learn more about all this on the Delete the Digital Divide home page. (Zack Quaintance)

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