Burlington Group Wins Grant For Public Service Tech

Jan 22, 2014

A Burlington group of self-proclaimed “civic hackers” won a $35,000 grant this week to build a web service to help local community organizations.

The grant, from the John S. and James L. Knight foundation, will fund the “Civic Cloud Collaborative,” a project by CodeForBTV to help develop online services for the public.

“We’re interested in it being a non-commercial space on the Internet,” said Bradley Holt, a Burlington-based developer who heads CodeForBTV, the local chapter of Code For America, an organization for public service software developers.

"We're interested in it being a non-commercial space on the Internet." - Bradley Holt, CodeForBTV

The cloud service, Holt said, will provide hosting capacity for local community organizations seeking to use the Internet to advance the public interest.

Holt said there are already four projects in the works for the cloud. One will offer high-definition live streaming of community meetings and events. Another will host Wordpress-based websites for local community organizations.

Holt said that after Tropical Storm Irene, the Vermont Digital Economy Project found that “communities with digitally connected non-profits were more resilient to natural disasters.” For example, Holt said, a local food bank with an up-to-date website would be able to take donations from out of state when funds were badly needed. With no web presence, such assistance isn’t possible.

Big Heavy World is a project to promote and preserve Vermont music, Holt said, and the new cloud service will host a number of apps for the group.

The Civic Cloud isn’t all business, though. The final project in the Civic Cloud’s initial set is a modification for the popular videogame Minecraft.

“It basically uses open GIS data for the Lake Champlain basin and brings it into the game Minecraft,” Holt said. The goal of that project is to introduce gamers to the local environment in a new way, he said.

Holt said all of these projects will emerge in the coming months and he hopes other community organizations will come forward with more ideas about how to use the service.

Disclosure: Bradley Holt was part of a team that developed VPR's website.