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AZ Tech Beat | December 17, 2018

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Hackers Putting Public Data to Good Use – “Hack for Change” Recap

Hackers Putting Public Data to Good Use – “Hack for Change” Recap
Sara Parker

Gangplank Hacking Event Image

This weekend, Gangplank Chandler hosted the National Day of Hacking. The two-day event consisted of community members brainstorming ways to use public data in order to improve their own community without the need of help from politicians or businesses. On Saturday, participants conceptualized new ways to use census data, work with local farmers’ markets, and create a collaborative website for the Chandler community. These ideas were then expanded and advanced for presentation to Chandler council members to be put into practice.

The concept behind “civic hacking” is to access public data to create beneficial community projects. Participants built models and prototypes from public data in order to present ideas to community members and local politicians.

Peter J. Hart, a member of Gangplank and contributor to the event, expanded upon the concept of civic hacking and the challenges with bureaucracy. He explained that it can be difficult to work within a bureaucracy because you do not have the flexibility to work on something that has a lengthy approval process.

Hart also explained that using public data can be difficult because it is not always easily accessible—even the hackers cannot write code to easily access information such as public census records. “We are having some difficulties with the census project. The records are public data, but they are hard to access. They are not in a form that hackers can use,” Hart said.

Hart hopes to expand efforts on the website idea, presented on Saturday, because they do not need data upfront; instead residents of Chandler can provide the information for hackers and the city. He explained that the site can be used for a wide variety of improvements that community wants and needs. It would be designed to engage the local community and discuss improvements for the city, such as education reform, street work, civic centers, local museums, and businesses development.

Gangplank cofounder and event host Derek Neighbors said that the event is designed to “get people excited about our community and then to go beyond.” In the future, they hope to work more with ASU and the larger community to make a greater social impact.

Learn more about Civic Hacking here.

Learn more about Gangplank Chandler events here.