This blog will be dedicated to examining and promoting civic data in Chicago, Cook County and Illinois.
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By Lewis Wallace
Participants in MigraHack L.A. in 2012. The immigration-themed civic hackathon is migrating to Chicago for a three-day event in Pilsen at the end of May. (Aurelia Ventura/RDataVox )
Chicago techies, data nerds and community groups are preparing for three days of events surrounding the National Day of Civic Hacking on Saturday, June 1. And the organizers say this is not your average hackathon — its goal is to bridge a digital divide and reach the general public.
“Civic hacking is the idea that as a resident of a place, you can change its makeup,” said Dan O’Neil, Executive Director of the Smart Chicago Collaborative. The three days of events will match citizens, journalists and community groups with programmers, developers and designers to dig into digital resources such as the City of Chicago’s data portal, and then develop ideas for websites and apps that help make public data more accessible. (Editor’s note: WBEZ is a media collaborator with the Smart Chicago Collaborative.)
Chicago events kick of May 31 at the Adler Planetarium, 1871 in Merchandise Mart and Cibola in Pilsen, and the first day will focus on workshops and training; the weekend of June 1-2 will be spent hacking away. The Adler event is geared toward youth, 1871’s event is open to the general public, and Cibola’s “MigraHack” is all about immigration.
“Immigration is one of the most important topics in our society today, as well as one of the most controversial topics,” said Phuong Ly of the Institute for Justice and Journalism, which is co-organizing the event with RDataVox. “We’re hoping that the projects generated at the hackathon will help add to a more nuanced and informed discussion about immigration and how it’s impacting Chicago and Illinois.”
Ly says open data on what languages are spoken in Chicago homes, business licenses and permits and demographic data on immigrant populations can enrich the debate if the resources are accessible to the general public. She adds that the event is competitive. “There’s already a lot of trash-talking on Twitter about which team is gonna win the hackathon,” she said.
The hackathon is taking place in over 50 locations across the U.S., and it’s co-sponsored by the White House. Its goal is to “bring together citizens, software developers, and entrepreneurs from all over the nation to collaboratively create, build, and invent new solutions using publicly-released data, code and technology to solve challenges relevant to our neighborhoods, our cities, our states and our country.”
“We’d love to have regular Chicago residents come to one of these civic hacking events, talk about your own experience in the city, and how you’d like to improve it, and engage with developers who could possibly make technology that can serve your needs,” said O’Neil.
“All of the people that are saying, ‘huh, open data, that doesn’t mean anything to me’…we need you!” said O’Neil.
Lewis Wallace is a Pritzker Journalism Fellow at WBEZ. Follow him @lewispants.