August 24, 2012

California Legislature May Ease Rules for Voters to Cast Ballots

THE CALIFORNIA legislature, in its final days of Capitol action in 2012, might reform state election law, generally making it easier for voters to cast their ballots.

Assembly Bill 1436 would allow voter registration right up until just before the polls close on Election Day. If passed and signed into law by Governor Brown, it would put California on par with ten other states and the District of Columbia in allowing some form of "same day" voter registration.

Assembly Bill 2054 would allow an absentee voter to return their vote by mail ballot at any polling place in the state on Election Day.

Assembly Bill 1466 would loosen the rules on ballots that don't arrive on Election Day. Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is seeking to give voters an extra 72 hours for their vote to count - as long as it's been postmarked by Election Day, or if the voter signs a legal certification that the ballot was filled out on time. Current rules require the ballot to be in the hands of elections officials by the time the polls close. If not, the ballot is not counted.

August 17, 2012

One Company's Fix for Jobless Veterans

THEY ARE everywhere, but we don't usually see them - the nearly 300,000 of the 2.4 million veterans of the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan who are without work. That's a 12% unemployment rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As a veteran recently said, "It's like people say, 'Thank you for your service...but don't ask me for a job.'"

They deserve better. So this past spring at TiVo they filled a conference room with veterans on staff and said, "We're not doing enough for people getting out of the military. Figure it out." Those veterans of wars going back to Vietnam took 90 minutes to conceive and design a paid annual internship program for men and women just getting out of the military, or who have recently finished school after service.

The TiVo Summer Veterans Intern Program is based on two ideas. First: Since we have internships for college students, why not vets? Second, a resume credential "buffer," such as the internship, answers the critical question of whether a veteran can successfully transition to civilian employment.

Read more about TiVo's creative program for vets here >

August 5, 2012

Civic Startups Introduce New Technology to Government

FORMER CONGRESSIONAL aide Marci Harris was frustrated with the way information and messages flooded into the office of Representative Pete Stark, D-Calif, and got lost. In 2010, she left to solve government's biggest problems.

She subsequently founded PopVox, a tech startup that works to improve the communication between Congress and its constituents.

Last month, more than 600 entrepreneurs and government and technology leaders came together at the Next Generation of Government Summit to hear speakers, attend presentations and participate in workshops about how to improve government. The workshops included "Tech Tips: 50 ways to be more effective," "Problem Solving: Improving Technology" and "How to Drive Big Changes in Government."

With technology advancing at a rapid pace and billions of people receiving information on Internet and their mobile phones, entrepreneurs and developers are trying to bridge the gap between new technology and old government habits. These civically focused startups are building products that they hope will change the way things are done. But their odds for success are tough, as many of them navigate uncharted waters and face competition from thousands of other startups for users and funds.

Read more here >

August 3, 2012

Imagine a Whole New Way to Get Around Town

ONE OF the topics that gets discussed on the campaign trail is transportation. Questions often center around SamTrans, our bus system, and Caltrain. There is pretty widespread agreement that both those transportation systems could be improved.

What if a new idea that uses technology had the power to bring some innovation to our commutes? Imagine a whole new way to get around.

SideCar, an app that aims to connect passengers in need of a ride with drivers who have extra space in their cars. It's a "community-based, real-time ridesharing marketplace."

SideCar's drivers are not professionals. They are ordinary folks looking for a way to make some extra money or help their community.

How does the app work?

Passengers enter their pick up and drop off information.  SideCar then shows them the nearest drivers and their ETA. Another cool feature is that the user can view their driver on a map as they get closer to picking them up.

Making a donation to the driver is easy because the app uses a "community average" to determine an appropriate donation based on what other riders have paid for comparable rides.

The app also relies on a crowdsourced passenger and driver rating systems.

SideCar isn't the ultimate solution for San Mateo County's transportation woes but it's a creative step in the right direction. It uses technology and shared services to improve community.

Maybe some young developer could build a SideCar like app for the Peninsula?

Learn more about SideCar here >