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National Day of Civic Hacking

September 22, 2021

For most, the word ‘hacking’ conjures images of a sketchy person clad in dark hooded clothing typing furiously at a computer in a dark room. While hacking and hackers have certainly been in the news lately for data breaches and other sinister online activity, there is such a thing as a benevolent hacker. These types of hackers engage in what is known as civic hacking which is “the process of finding…technology-based solutions to solve civic problems.”1

First celebrated in 2013, the National Day of Civic Hacking was created by Code for America, the United States Small Business Administration, and SecondMuse to celebrate the innovative, community-based changes that civic hackers enact2,3. While technical professionals, such as programmers and developers, are encouraged to participate, the community aspect of civic hacking invites anyone who wants to make a positive change to join the effort2,3.

The Code for America website states that “Project managers, community leaders, storytellers, lawyers, researchers, data scientists, and more are crucial to ensuring a solution devised through civic hacking is well-tailored to solve the problem, sustainable, and responsive to community needs.”2

Code for America sets an annual theme for the National Day on which participating teams can focus. In previous years, groups participating in the annual challenges built a receptacle for cigarette butts to reduce littering in Portland and a simplified digital open access publication of Baltimore City’s law to help residents of the city understand the complex legal jargon to which they are subject4,5.

This year, Code for America announced Reimagining 911 as the theme and tasked the community to answer the question: “how can we transform this service to be more responsive to community needs?”2 The goal of this year was to have teams across the country develop “a national 911 Open Data Scorecard in order to get a broad picture of the availability of 911 data across the country” according to the organization’s website2. To achieve this goal, people from a variety of different fields were needed such as data scientists who needed to interpret and create visual representations of the data collected3.

Like other years, the product of this year’s National Day of Civic Hacking will continue to be fleshed out until it can be implemented for the good of society. To this end, Code for America will form a National Action Team and will “continue work in Open Data, Data Analysis, and Prototyping” while “explor[ing] other areas of work, including user research and qualitative research.”6 In true open community spirit, anyone can join this effort by signing up here to participate in synchronous and asynchronous meetings.

Capitol Technology University has a robust Computer Science department filled with expert faculty teaching hands-on courses about current issues in the industry. If you are thinking about a career in computer science, data science, or artificial intelligence contact Robert Steele, Chair of the Computer Science department at rjsteele@captechu.edu or contact the university’s admissions department by emailing admissions@captechu.edu.

References

  1. Municipal Information Systems Association of California. (2017, July 10). Civic Hacking: A Sustainable Resource for City Innovation. Retrieved from https://www.misac.org/news/353423/Civic-Hacking-A-Sustainable-Resource-for-City-Innovation.htm.
  2. Shepard, T. & Mazanec, M. (2021, August 9). What is civic hacking?. Retrieved from codeforamerica.org/news/what-is-civic-hacking/.
  3. Case, L. (2021, August 31). National Day for Civic Hacking. Retrieved from https://www.sjpl.org/blog/national-day-civic-hacking.
  4. Carbaugh, J., Lannon, B., McCann, L., Mill, E., Tagliamonte, P., Turk, J., & Williams, R. (2013, June 4). National Day of Civic Hacking. Retrieved from https://sunlightfoundation.com/2013/06/04/national-day-of-civic-hacking-2013/.
  5. Kraft, S. (2013, June 3). Baltimore Decoded - Free Law for Charm City. Retrieved from https://hackforchangebaltimore.devpost.com/submissions/15807-baltimore-decoded-free-law-for-charm-city.
  6. Code for America. Join the 911 National Action Team. Retrieved from https://airtable.com/shrOn0cmvNhbpMCFL.