Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Civic Hacking: A Focus On Solving Problems

Do Appleton or other NE Wisconsin cities have big enough problems to be worth an organized civic hacking initiative to solve them?

One of the main reasons people become civic hackers is to make their city a better place to live, that is, to solve problems.

Big cities like LA, SF, and NYC have big problems. Civic hacking is one way individuals and relatively small groups can make a difference working on problems in big cities. So it makes sense to have an organized civic hacking initiative in those cities to work on the problems and try to make their city a better place for all residents.

But Appleton and most other cities in NE Wisconsin are relatively small compared to LA, SF and NYC. So the problems are usually quite a bit smaller and less severe. Our problems in this region might not seem bad enough or big enough to mobilize people to work on them.

One of the first civic hacks was chicagocrime.org -- there was enough crime information available in Chicago that mapping out where the crimes occurred was an interesting challenge to the civic hacker who created it, Adrian Holovaty. And it gave useful information, showing where clusters of crime activity were throughout the Chicago area. Does Appleton have enough crime to make it worthwhile for a civic hacker to obtain the data that is, or should be, publicly-available and then put it on a map?

What problems might civic hackers in Appleton and NE Wisconsin chose to work on? Here are some problems other civic hackers have tackled:

  1. Crime
  2. Hunger
  3. Poverty
  4. Education
  5. Homelessness
  6. Transportation
  7. Severe weather impacts
  8. Non-transparent government; inadequate access to people and information
  9. Air and water pollution

In addition to current problems, are there problems in the future for Appleton due to population growth, housing development trends, flight to suburbs, graying of America, changing ethnic or economic demographics, stagnant economy, brain drain, etc. Should civic hacking try to prevent or lessen the impact of those problems for our area?

And maybe we shouldn't just look for problems to fix or prevent. Maybe we should also look for opportunities to improve the local or regional economy. According to some studies, civic hacks and civic tech have huge potential to not only solve problems but to create opportunities and jobs.

Maybe we can start out by doing small projects that are just some nice-to-have things. Once we show success with small projects and start building a civic hacker community that's at least loosely connected throughout the region, we can organize bigger and more complex civic hacks.

One of the activities at the civic hackathon, especially for people who don't code, might be discussing and researching problems in Appleton or elsewhere in the area in order to clearly identify and document the problems that might justify creating civic hacks.

If you know of government-related problems you'd like to work on, whether they're tiny or huge, participate in the "DHMN Civic Hackathon/Appleton 2015" on June 6, 2015.

Click here to see the agenda for the hackathon.

Click here to register for the June 6 civic hackathon in Appleton, Wisconsin, USA.


No comments:

Post a Comment