Stories from this week include a couple research studies – one showing that civic participation may stave off Alzheimer’s, and pension plans may be planning better for (gulp) mortality. Also stories about the increasing calls for more private sector techies to get involved in the civic sector.
“The Next Big Hacker Could Be at Your PTA Meeting” (Farah Halime/Ozy)
Pull Quote: “While so many of their peers are busy courting the Apples, Amazons and Googles of the world, a growing army of “civic hackers” — consisting mostly of designers, programmers and data scientists — are using their eclectic skills to solve government and civic problems, with their own twists. Their work has included local initiatives in the Big Apple and the Windy City, such as Smart Chicago, a civic project that wants to improve lives through tech, and a pilot program that assists with the city’s public planning policy where it sold plots of vacant land for just $1. They’re also behind nationwide rollouts like Turbo Text, which sends text message reminders before elections.
“Civic engagement may stave off brain atrophy, improve memory” (Multiple Authors/Science Daily)
PQ: “Carlson notes that many cognitive intervention studies last one year or less. One strength of this study, she says, is that the participants were followed for two years, which in this case was long enough to see changes that wouldn’t have been detected after just one year.
The researchers were particularly interested in the results, considering that people with less education and who live in poverty are at greater risk for cognitive decline.”
“Think before you post: Here’s the new federal-workforce guidance on social media” (Eric Yoder / Washington Post)
PQ: “One issue commonly arising, the guidance says, involves use of job titles on personal social media accounts. The rules generally require that employees avoid using their titles or positions in a way that would create an appearance that the government “sanctions or endorses their activities or those of another.”
There would be no violation if an employee merely includes his or her title or position in an area of the account for biographical information, OGE said. However, a violation might occur if an employee “refers to his or her connection to the government as support for the employee’s statements.””
“STUDY: How Will Longer Lifespans Affect State and Local Pension Funding” (Munnel, Aubry, and Cafarelli / Center for Retirement Research (Boston College))
PQ: “The question underlying this analysis is whether outdated mortality assumptions are a serious problem among state and local plans. The answer appears to be “no.” It’s true that if plans were to adopt the gen- erational version of RP-2014, the aggregate funded ratio would drop from an estimated 73 percent to 67 percent; but even the private sector is not considering using such low mortality rates. Simply adopting the static RP-2014 would only reduce the funded ratio from 73 percent to 72 percent. In short, public sec- tor plans seem to be making a serious effort to keep their life expectancy assumptions up to date. The big increase in 2013 of CalPERS’ liability and decline in funding was reflective of an effort to better incorpo- rate future mortality improvements when estimating mortality, not a sign of a serious problem.”
“White House CTO: Government Needs Tech Industry to Show Up” (Issie Lapowsky / WIRED)
PQ: “Government is only what we make of it,” Smith said on stage at the Building the Business of Civic Tech conference in New York City today. “If we show up, it’ll include our skills.”
This is advice that Smith herself has taken to heart, having left the private sector and a vibrant career at Google last year to become the country’s CTO last fall. Now, she’s calling on others to do the same.