National Day of Civic Hacking Celebrated in 83 Cities

June 3, 2013

By Emily Pickren

The first ever National Day of Civic Hacking brought citizens together to solve community challenges and create innovative, new solutions using publicly-released data, code and technology. This weekend's event engaged over 11,000 participants around the country at over 95 events in 83 cities. Mayors in several cities participated, including Los Angeles, San Diego, Baltimore, Louisville, Ky. and Palo Alto, Calif.

The National Day of Civic Hacking consisted of hackathons, or events where programmers meet to engage in collaborative computer programming, all over the country. Hackathon counts ranged from a few people in communities with start-up civic hacking initiatives to over 300 at Hack for LA, to 5,000-plus participants in Palo Alto's mayor-supported CityCamp. Hack for LA included developers ranging from 11 to 57 years-old, and engaged challenges around youth, health, disaster and education.

The event was organized by Code For America, Random Hacks of Kindness, Innovation Endeavors, and boasted over 20 government partners, including the White House, the National Science Foundation, and the states of New York, Maryland, and Nevada. Twenty-one federal agencies also participated in the event by submitting challenges, opening up data and sending officials to events in support of teams willing to work on projects for their government and their communities.

Other local highlights include:

• A team in Washington, DC worked with a representative from the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to take one of their databases and create a meaningful visualization to help understand the scope of complaints filed with the agency. Prior to this, the only way to interact with this data was through an unwieldy text database.

• A team in Philadelphia designed a project that displays all of the drinking water safety violations in a user's county. The next step is to work with the U.S. EPA to incorporate educational information on drinking water safety.

• In response to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's challenge, a hacker in South Elgin, Ill. created a calendar feed that lists upcoming nearby farmers markets by location.

• Another team in Washington, DC worked with the U.S. Department of Labor to design a system to connect women veterans with available resources, such as childcare, Post-traumatic stress disorder support and transportation assistance.

The mission behind the National Day of Civic Hacking closely aligns with the White House's new Open Data Policy, and with many public and private sector organizations' common goal of improving their communities.