Civic Tech Strengthens Cities on National Day of Civic Hacking

09/25/2017 03:21 pm ET
Courtesy of Code for DC

Across the nation, entrepreneurs, government employees and innovators came together this past weekend to improve their communities by addressing local challenges such as hurricane relief and rat riddance through data and technology.

"On this National Day of Civic Hacking,” said DC Mayor Muriel Bowser “We are proud to be using data and technology to solve problems and improve the quality of life for District residents in all eight wards. I look forward to applying all of the hard work from the hackathon to the work we do every day for District residents."

Washington D.C. Deputy Mayor’s Office on Health and Human Services hosted their first ever hackathon together with Code for DC and Data Kind DC, that included a slack channel for rats! That's because rodents are on the rise in the nation’s capital and Mayor Muriel Bowser, challenged civic hackers to join the city’s "Rat Riddance" initiative. This included analyzing 311 rat related calls to develop models to "predict upticks in rat-related complaints in space and time." 

According to D.C. Office of the Chief Technology Officer, the data sources used included: the number of rat burrows as documented by trained rodent control staff during abatement; the frequency of trash pick-up in defined geographic areas and complaints as documented in the District's 311 system. One of the goal of the civic hacking effort included creating a public-facing 311 data portal that allows users to examine trends in service complaints over time and int heir neighborhoods. 

National Day of Civic Hacking was founded in 2012 and is a collaboration between Code for America and the open innovation company SecondMuse. Throughout the day Digital Storytellers from SecondMuse shared stories and amplified the work of civic hackers from around the country via social media. "Here in D.C. and nationwide, there was a narrative that hacking for change is everyone’s responsibility and opportunity. Women and men, beginners and experts, people from literally all walks of life showed up this weekend and made a difference while witnessing their power and impact firsthand. It takes everyone pitching in to make change,” says Matt Scott, Digital Storyteller at SecondMuse.

Teams of experts worked together around the country on visualization projects, analyzing graphs and creating new datasets. The Federal Open Data community and Johns Hopkins Sibley Innovation Hub also participated to harness the power of open data and civic tech to tackle suicide prevention, Lyme disease, data-driven solutions to the opioid crisis, and hurricane relief. In a Facebook live interview, Sophia B. Liu, Innovation Specialist at the US Geological Survey talked about the focus on hurricane response. She was also joined by two colleagues from FEMA who spoke specifically about the recent hurricanes in Florida and Texas. 

In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti welcomed civic hackers to help tackle better ways to recycle. The City Department of Public Works and DataLA teamed up to better understand the issues around contamination degrading the quality of recyclables and coming up with innovative approaches to reducing recycling contamination in the future.

Code for Kansas City, organized their 5th National Day this past Saturday. One of their projects had coders, researchers and residents working on a graffiti abatement tracking technology to help reduce and remove graffiti in certain parts of the city.

“In the past five years, with National Day of Civic Hacking we have organized some of the largest mass collaborations in history with hundreds of cities teaming up with engaged citizens to tackle local issues. In this way, data is enabling citizens to leverage technology and push forward idea sharing,” says Todd Khozein of SecondMuse.

Stories and interviews from across the country from National Day events

  • Cranford, New Jersey: Area 'National Day of Civic Hacking' Coding Session at UCC Campus Geared to Assist Hurricane Victims.
  • Kansas City, Missouri: Code for Kansas hacking into fifth year; more civic hackers needed.
  • St. Paul, Minnesota: At Code Switch, techies tackle social justice.
  • Washington DC: Interview with David Maron, a member of the federal open data community.
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