Cities & Communities


Communities in the U.S. and around the world are entering a new era of transformational change. Residents and the surrounding environments are increasingly connected by smart technologies, leading to new opportunities for innovation, improved services, and enhanced quality of life for all. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have the power to enable governments, companies, universities, civil society organizations, and communities. These communities can collaboratively address some of the 21st century’s most pressing challenges—including urban planning, education quality, social services, and public safety. Yet, in our increasingly connected world, technology also can have negative effects as digital and social media further divide communities by creating “echo chambers” and “social bubbles.” Thus, there is an urgent need for the development of tools and platforms to promote collective problem-solving and strengthen the social and economic fabric of societies.

The Challenge

The challenge for this track is to describe a novel solution that leverages the capacity of technology to engage and enhance the wellbeing of communities, campuses, and cities. These innovations should stimulate new thinking to address key physical, social, or economic challenges facing geographic locales ranging from university settings to global metropolises. Solutions may focus on a wide range of areas, including but not limited to: improving the living conditions of urban environments, promoting civic engagement, sharing knowledge and information, making transportation options more accessible, and empowering individuals to improve their own well-being.

Past Winners and Examples

Examples of proposals include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • A cloud-based speech recognition and speaker identification technology that empowers hard-of-hearing individuals to access in-person conversations.
  • A mobile application that aims to promote the physical and mental health of students.
  • A web platform that helps first responders receive real-time crowdsourced information during emergencies.
  • An online resource that aims to improve the financial literacy of students and provides education on student loans, credit, and money management.
  • A shared home ownership model that makes housing accessible and affordable to individuals previously unable to purchase homes in a given city.
Blackbook, 2021
Parity Lab, 2022
Walls to Bridges, 2020
Wildfire, 2016
BlackPrint Technologies, 2023
Codi, 2018


Team Members:

Hriday Kemburu, Vinay A. Ramesh, Jay Patel, Tim C. Hyon


UC Berkeley

When breaking news happens around you, how do you hear about it? Whether it’s a mugging, fire, or shooting nearby, there aren’t effective ways of notifying the immediate community in real time. Wildfire sends real-time notifications to your phone when a user reports dangerous activity nearby. With Wildfire, breaking local news is delivered to you, and you don’t even have to unlock your phone. Getting informed on Wildfire is not about who your friends are or who you follow, rather notifications are sourced from people nearby. If an emergency occurs, users can write an alert that is sent directly to their emergency contacts, their nearby community, and a dashboard monitored by public safety officials—all with one button. A user’s emergency contacts do not even have to download the app to receive their alert via SMS. Before walking home, users can also view recent incidents in their area.

Information for Action

Team Members:

Emily Thomas, John Toner


UC Berkeley

Information for Action (IFA) is​ dedicated to social change powered by citizens and technology. IFA deploys user-centered design strategy and believes communities should determine features and technology solutions. After months of gathering community feedback, IFA is launching the first-ever browser extension and web application to link news to action. When a natural disaster strikes and you read about it online you will be able to click the IFA icon and immediately sign up to hand out meals to victims, distribute supplies, and help people find shelter. Community organizations can post actions to advocate for their work, then see views, clicks, and ​RSVPs of their posts through a personalized account integrated with other social media platforms. These organizations can also subscribe to advanced analytics tools. The IFA team is comprised of experts in journalism, community organizing, policy and planning, and technology development.