On Saturday, 1 June, and spilling into Sunday, 2 June in some towns, hackers will join together at community centers, vacant parking lots, and closed-off streets, carrying laptops and trailing power cords. They’ll be connecting with educators, students, artists, and city workers in a coordinated effort to build open-source software that will solve local—or even national—problems.
Organized by HackForChange, with help from companies like Intel and Facebook, government agencies including the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, and nonprofits like Code for America, the National Day of Civic Hacking has events scheduled in 35 states. My community, Palo Alto, Ca., will be coming together at an event called CityCamp, which has an ambitious agenda: addressing problems of connectedness (traffic, parking, and the Internet, for example); sustainability (climate change, energy, and the environment); resilience (disaser recovery and cyber-security); and health (chronic disease, nutrition, and exercise). Other cities' aims are a little more focused, and perhaps more realistic—though I appreciate my community’s tendency to dream big.
In Akron, Ohio, hackers will focus on building an app to map the region's parks. In Des Moines, Iowa, a hack-for-school event will focus on developing software to help educators. In Columbia, S.C., hackers will try to figure out what kinds of public information people want access to, and will try to build user interfaces to make it easy to get. In Washington, D.C., a hackathon at the White House will build apps for a “We the People” website, an online tool meant to make it easier for people to petition the government.
Though is the first time a hacker day will be a national event, it’s not the first time Palo Alto has participated. Last spring, the town hosted a hacking day event called the “Super Happy Block Party.” A number of these block parties had been organized in recent years by a company called Innovation Endeavors, and organizers of the 1 and 2 June civic hacking days are using them as a model.
I’d love to hear about your plans for the National Day of Civic Hacking in the comments below.
Photo credit: Congnghe24g
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.