Hacking Open Data for Democracy

One of the treasure troves for hackers is the idea of "open data" - data which Chicago government provides for citizens to maintain transparency. However, interpreting this data can be a challenge, because there are very few online resources for doing so....unless, of course, you head to 1871 every Tuesday night.

This past week, I was fortunate to visit the Open Gov Hack Day, a collective of software developers, problem solvers, and other concerned citizens working towards developing applications that take City data and interprets that data, making it more accessible for neighborhood residents and helping the city build better communities.

ChicagoDigital_125The group meets every Tuesday at 1871, a space where digital startup companies can find like-minded collaborators. This past Tuesday saw a presentation from the Mayor's Office, focusing on Chicago Digital, which is part of Mayor Emanuel's initiative to make the city work more effectively and transparently, and the site hosts a variety of online projects. Serving as the digital hub, the site provides a central access point for the city's various social media channels, tech resources for developers, and several web-based applications which are intended to provide information for residents, including

  • ChicagoShovels,org, focusing on mobilizing around snowstorms;
  • a Local School Council locator;
  • Videos of the Mayor's press conferences (Fact: the Mayor's Office livestreams every press conference except in situations - like CTA Garages - where a stable wireless connection cannot be established);
  • "Rate Your Plate" via the Chicago Department of Public Health; and
  • Currently working on a discussion forum.

But one of the highlights of the evening occurred when several groups spun off and worked on various independent software projects. Many of these projects use current city data in many unique ways, providing information in a very graphically distinctive way, including

(Note - many of the sites are still "under construction", which is why several entries lack links).

If you're interested in learning more about open government and open data, you are more than welcome to check out the group - just visit 1871's calendar for more details. 

And as always, if you have questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below or contact me via Linked In or e-mail.

Thanks for reading!

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