Chattanooga area residents gather to create civic apps

Chattanooga area residents gather to create civic apps

May 30th, 2013 by Shelly Bradbury in Business Around the Region

IF YOU GO

What: Open Chattanooga's Civic Hack-a-thon

When: 9 a.m. Saturday through 4:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: 4th Floor, Chattanooga Public Library downtown

Registration: Free at hack4chatt.eventbrite.com

For more information: hackforchange.org/open-chattanooga-hack-a-thon

Can smartphone applications reduce localized flooding in city streets by organizing volunteers to keep storm drains clear?

Can they organize residents in Boston to shovel out local fire hydrants if the fixtures get buried under snow so firefighters can respond faster to winter fires?

They can, says Open Chattanooga's Tim Moreland. And he thinks the Scenic City should get in on the civic app action.

Open Chattanooga is hosting a civic hack-a-thon this weekend. Developers, designers, writers and residents will brainstorm new ways to use the city's public data to increase the average resident's interaction with local government. It's one of about 100 events happening across the country this weekend to mark the first National Day of Civic Hacking.

"We're looking to show the value that data can have, especially in addressing community issues," Open Chattanooga's Jenny Park said. "We think civic hacking is really valuable to a lot of people."

Open Chattanooga is a grass-roots group of locals who aim to use technology and open government data to make residents' day-to-day lives easier, Moreland said. The group, founded in 2011, meets weekly at the Co.Lab to discuss community issues.

This weekend, about 40 Chattanoogans will gather at the Chattanooga Public Library to come up with creative ways to use public data for residents' benefit, Moreland said. The event is sponsored by the city, the Co.Lab and the Chattanooga Public Library 4th Floor.

After a Saturday morning pitch, participants will be able to chose a project to work on through the weekend. By Sunday afternoon, organizers hope to have several demos and prototypes ready for the weekend's final presentation.

Moreland said he's not sure what kind of ideas the participants will come up with.

"I'm mostly excited to see what happens when you get all these creative people together and see what they develop," he said.

Nationwide, about 5,000 people will participate in the National Day of Civic Hacking, said Vanessa Schneider, with California-based Innovation Endeavors, a company that's helping to organize the national events.

"Silicon Valley doesn't have a monopoly on this stuff," she said. "We're really excited that all these different communities can do this."

After this weekend's events, participants will have the opportunity to submit their projects to a national competition and a select few will be chosen to present at the White House in July, she added.

"We hope this activates people and gets people involved past this weekend," Moreland said. "We hope it doesn't stop at this weekend."

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at sbradbury@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6525.