"Civic hackers" in Detroit this weekend

May 31, 2013

Attention civic-minded techies: Detroit needs your help.

That’s the message organizers are putting out ahead of the National Day of Civic Hacking on Saturday.

The White House-sponsored event is taking place in cities around the country, including Detroit. Government units will release an "unprecedented amount of data" in what one organizer calls "the largest communion of civic hackers."

The idea is for government, citizens and people with technology skills to exchange ideas and data. Then, they’ll explore whether there might be computer-based solutions to some sticky public problems.

“It’s a day where technologists take their know-how, and apply it to civic problems,” says Detroit event organizer Alok Sharma.

Several cities, including Detroit, have contributed data sets for the effort.

Sharma says Detroit officials have shared fairly “scattershot” city demolition data with the group—and hope they can do something with it.

“The technologists are going to look through this data, and try to come up with some sort of analysis that will enable the city to do a more efficient job of prioritizing these demolitions,” Sharma says.

Sharma says other potential projects range from helping government agencies sort through and publicize their own data; and helping neighborhood groups use technology to communicate and collaborate better.

Sharma says he expects about 150 people to attend, representing “a mix of technology people…and the curious.” The event is free and open to everyone at the Boll Family YMCA in downtown Detroit.