Civic hackers will have a chance to dig into the U.S. government’s open data this weekend at the University of Baltimore.
Hack for Diversity and Social Justice offers U.S. Census data made available through CitySDK, a software kit that’s designed to help developers improve cities. According to organizer Tyrone Grandison, teams will have a couple of days to familiarize themselves with the data, and figure out how to use it for social change.
The hackathon is free to attend.
“Given the recent events that happened in Baltimore,” Grandison said, referring to the death of Freddie Gray and the riots that followed, “we feel that there is a need for solutions to address problems from the technology point of view.”
Grandison said the floor will be open for participants to use CitySDK to create APIs, analyze data, create visualizations and beyond.
Some of the issues the organizers are laying out include income disparity, police accountability and empowering women and girls. In true hackathon fashion, however, the agenda is open.
— Dave Troy 🇺🇸 (@davetroy) July 6, 2015
Grandison, a Presidential Innovation Fellow at the White House, said he views data as a tool to help with decision making, and to discover the truth behind hotly debated issues. He acknowledged it might not be the only factor in creating change, but he said that it can be an enabler.
Grandison offered the example of merging data on police misconduct records with data on police-involved shootings.
“Would that play a part in the police departments actually being more respectful or not? I’m not sure. But I think the possibility is there,” he said.
The hackathon, which is being held at the University of Baltimore’s Merrick School of Business (11 W. Mt. Royal Ave.) will begin at 6 p.m. on Friday, July 17 with presentations on using CitySDK, and the issues. Then, teams will form up. On Saturday morning, the teams will report back for a full day of hacking.
Cash rewards aren’t available at this hackathon, but winning teams will get access to people who can help incubate the ideas that are produced at the event, and turn them into products.