Local techies prepare to hack local government data — and that’s a good thing

This Sunday, hackers will converge together to peel back at the databases and apps that keep the city moving — and Boston is okay with that. At Hackstock for Local Gov, hosted at the Hynes Convention Center, techies come together to put the mountains of data already out there to better use.

Christopher Thomas, director of government marketing for sponsor Esri, answered a few of my questions via email.

Who is involved in organizing this, and why?

Hackstock for #LocalGov is part of a larger technology initiative called the #LocalGov Technology Alliance which seeks help government executives become more engaged in the adoption and integration of technology into government operations. The program was kicked off with a white boarding exercise held on the Esri campus in Redlands, CA. During the event, 15 government executives from local governments came to share their management issues and laid out over 200 hundred ideas for apps they would like to see the innovation community pursue. The hackathon was the next logical step to connect government executives to the innovation community. Esri, the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), and MindMixer came together to host the hackathon at the 99th Annual ICMA Conference in Boston.


What can a group of dedicated hackers actually get done in a weekend? (i.e., what are you hoping to get accomplished?)

The goal of most hackathons is to produce apps that local governments can use to improve both internal operations and citizen engagement. What’s different about #Hackstock is the emphasis on innovation coupled with opening a dialog between city and county administrators and the development community. With this event, we are seeking to fill the void between coded ideas and developing the governance and infrastructure to truly embrace what the hacker and start up communities have to offer.

What are some points of progress that Boston has made in better using its data, and what are some big opportunities?

The Boston setting is perfect for Hackstock for #LocalGov. The Boston region has become a beacon for innovation. Here we have a government who has stood up and offered to be a testing ground for the open data and civic engagement movements. The city has immersed itself into the civic-hacker and startup communities offering insight and testing of ideas ranging from the mayor’s transparency dashboard to applications such as Speed Bump, which uses citizens’ cell phones as sensors to capture road conditions from their cars.


What kinds of folks get involved?

Once the #LocalGov Technology Alliance was announced we saw a lot of interest from a wide range of organizations. We saw leaders in academic circles, research groups such as Public Technology Institute, Code for America, GovLoop and the Sunlight Foundation embrace the program whole heartedly. What’s really exciting is that government administrators who manage cities and counties serving populations from 4,000 all the way to 1.2 million people became engaged. The hackathon itself will now complete the ecosystem by bringing in the developers, students, civic-hackers, and startups.

Is it just coders who need apply, or is there a broader range of people who can participate?

The hackathon is open to web managers, mobile developers, hackers, developers, entrepreneurs, coders, and startups alike. Most apps are built in a team environment. Individuals who really want to showcase their work to government leaders seeking to change their communities through technology should consider this as an opportunity to innovate, code and engage.

Check out the event registration page for more details and free tickets.

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