Twenty-two federal agencies, including the Census Bureau, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, NASA, and the Peace Corps are opening up their data files—at least some of them—to hackers around the United States today as part of the National Day of Civic Hacking. These hackers are the good guys—volunteers around the country who will develop tools and apps to make that data more publicly accessible.
Todd Park, U.S. Chief Technology Officer, said in a press statement, “Imagine all the good that can be done by innovators with the growing troves of data the federal government has been making available—data on everything from hospital pricing to drinking water safety to natural disasters and much more. Americans paid for these data resources and deserve easy access to them.”
Working with this data is only a small part of the coding and other tech-related activities going on around the United States today. In Los Angeles, a foundation founded by will.i.am is hosting an event designed to bring young people into technology. In Rockaway Beach, N.Y., a town recently damaged by Hurricane Sandy, civic hackers are building tools to help the community and the government collaborate on rebuilding. In Austin, Texas, hackers are participating in a “mapathon,” an all-day effort to make maps of Austin more detailed, as well as inclusive of moving targets, like food trucks.
In my town, Palo Alto, Calif., the main business street in town is closed today to make way for an ambitious agenda of on-the-spot software writing, brainstorming, hardware building and arts activities, displays by tech companies, speeches, and food. Speakers include MacArthur Fellow Jim Fruchterman, futurist Paul Saffo, NASA researcher Steven Zornetzer, and data scientist Paco Nathan. While the speakers hold forth at a local park, some twenty VCs are holding open office hours for entrepreneurs wanting to pitch their venture ideas. Meanwhile, over at the Googleplex in nearby Mountain View, Saturday kicks off a two-day hacking event focusing on technology to benefit public health and the environment.
What’s going on in your community?
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.