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Food banks turn to mapping tech

One of the COVID-19 pandemic's lasting images is miles-long lines of cars at food banks, with families with dwindling finances waiting for desperately needed supplies. And as the lines have grown longer, so too have food banks' reliance on technologies like geographic information systems, Charles Hoffman, a data-science and marketing analyst at the supermarket chain Kroger, said this week during Esri's online conference. The mapping software that Esri sells, he said, is proving to be one of the most powerful tools available to ensure that the services that food banks provide are well marketed to people who need help. Colin Wood reports.

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Broadband advocates approve Biden's plan

Experts on broadband access and net neutrality said they are “cautiously optimistic” about the infrastructure plans that presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has put forward. Following the release last week of a series of recommendations from a “Unity Task Force” made up of Biden and Bernie Sanders surrogates, the former vice president appears to have renewed his support for removing barriers to municipally-owned broadband networks and restoring net neutrality. "That looks better than what we’ve seen from this Trump administration," said Christoper Mitchell, director of the community broadband networks initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Ryan Johnston reports.

Pahlka tells Congress to speed it up

Congress will need to be more than a checkbook, and become an ally to government’s modernization efforts if government technology is going to help the United States overcome the coronavirus pandemic, Code for America founder Jennifer Pahlka told the House Budget Committee yesterday. "Now more than ever, we cannot afford to pour time, attention and enormous sums of money into a process for building and buying software that hasn’t worked for decades," said Pahlka, who recently co-founded the U.S. Digital Response to help states and cities quickly respond with technology to the pandemic. Ryan has more.

What GIS can do for elections

Fourteen years after it started using geospatial information systems to draw its election maps, Maricopa County, Arizona, says there have been marked improvements in the accuracy of precinct and legislative district boundaries, as well as participation and confidence from voters. Since they started using GIS in 2006, Maricopa officials have found it much easier to draw maps, locate new polling places and audit voter files. “At the most fundamental level, GIS ensures voters get the right ballot,” said former Maricopa County election official Tammy Patrick. In 2020, more jurisdictions are using GIS in election administration, but it's still far from the norm, though Patrick said GIS can play a crucial role as more states shift to voting by mail. Benjamin Freed has details.

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