Saturday, May 23, 2015

Civic Hacking In The News: May 23, 2015

This May 23, 2015, post is a few items from recent news about civic hacking. No commentary on today’s articles, just short excerpts. If they sound like something you want to know more about, click the headline links and read them in their entirety.

Census Bureau to Participate in National Civic Day of Hacking, Issues City SDK Challenge to Developers
"The U.S. Census Bureau is participating in this year's National Day of Civic Hacking by launching the "City SDK Open Data Solutions Challenge." This challenge encourages developers to use the Census Bureau's new City Software Development Kit (SDK), a new tool that makes the bureau's API (application programming interface) easier to use. As part of this national event, the Census Bureau will also participate in the 2015 Urban Sustainability Apps Competition, where developers have the opportunity to create apps using the City SDK."
"These 7 legal hacks are providing greater access to justice"
"For many, the law and its institutions are unapproachable, unaffordable and impenetrable. We’d much rather avoid the law than ever risk engaging with it. However, around the country, lawyers, advocates and technologists are changing the way that we (and they) interact with the legal system. We’re not just talking about e-filing either. Code is being harnessed to provide better oversight of the Supreme Court and improve the efficiency of lawyers providing legal services to indigent clients. The law is vast and its adoption of technology is slow, but the types of projects cropping up are as varied as they are innovative. To get a snapshot of this evolution, we took a look at seven legal technology and data innovations. Some of these projects emerged from the Without Their Permission ethos, while others are created because lawyers are growing tired of the redundancy of their work. Either way, these projects are in many cases foregoing precedent to see what happens when you tackle the law with technology."
"Why some local authorities are missing the point of open data - and what to do about it"
"Dan Hubert was driving into London’s West End to see a show. He circled the roads around the theatre trying to find a parking space. The only one available was on a single yellow line. He looked for a sign showing whether the bay was residents’ parking only, and if not, what the time restrictions were. Finding nothing, he assumed he’d have to move on. Fortunately, he spotted a traffic warden who said he was, in fact, able to park there. It was then Hubert realised London must be full of parking spaces thatare underused because people are confused about the rules for each street and are cautious about getting a ticket. Their confusion is understandable. There are 1,800 individually controlled parking zones across the capital, each governed under different rules by the 32 boroughs. Hubert’s revelation led to him creating AppyParking, an app that gives users all the information they need about available parking spaces anywhere in the capital. To build it, he contacted each borough to ask for data on their street parking restrictions. After considerable negotiation, he sourced the information he needed. But it was here the problems started."
"Moving the food system forward with open data"
"Every day, unprecedented volumes and types of data are generated from new technologies that most people could not have imagined even two decades ago. At the same time, the world is facing the challenge of global food security: Many of the solutions to food security and malnutrition may lie in innovative use of data relevant to the agriculture and nutrition sectors. It is also more important than ever that decision-makers, at all levels of the agricultural system — from the farmer to the policymaker — have access to all relevant information to make informed decisions. Opening up agricultural and nutritionally relevant datasets has the potential to impact lives through more effective and transparent government, improved government services, better target development programs as well as improved research, science and innovation. A lack of open data and institutional, national and international policies limit the effectiveness of agricultural and nutritional data from research and innovation."
"Open data and what it can make government do better"
"In March 2014, Tom Marshall — who at that time was still new in the premier's office — unveiled what was called the open government initiative. One of the pillars was identified as "open data." But just what is open data? According to the provincial government's website, open data is defined as "the release of government datasets in accessible formats for use and re-use by anyone for any purpose." That sounds pretty vague, and I needed real examples to understand just what open data looks like in the real world. To find out more, I got in touch with James Flynn of Code NL — a local organization promoting greater computer programming education in the province. James told me about a panel discussion Code NL held on Feb. 17 all about open data, and put me in touch with some of the people that attended and presented. After speaking with some of them, here are three things I learned about open data and how it could look in practice in Newfoundland and Labrador."
"How can government support open data without doing it all itself?"
"While not the only source of open data, government can play an important wider supporting role, no matter who manages or provides the information beyond the General Election...Government collects, maintains and provides access to a whole range of data. It manages information to aid decision making, including geospatial data, the census and crime surveys. The day-to-day business of government also produces data, such as spending information, transport timetables or car registrations. Ten to fifteen years ago, government maintained most of the data it produces solely for its own benefit, making the information available in the minimal ways required by law, such as providing paper copies at local council offices. Within this time we have seen several technological changes, particularly a shift in recognising the importance of data. We have also experienced social changes; we now have far higher expectations about both the transparency of government and equality of access to information for a fairer and more competitive marketplace. Now governments are expected not only to use data themselves but also to make it available for others to reuse, often as open data."


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