The 2011 Hack4Reno Hackathon was all about open data and software development for bettering communities. Being Granicus’ niche, we decided not only to participate in the event, but to sponsor it as well. Participants had twenty-four hours to create an application that uses open and available government data.
We sent two of Granicus' best and brightest to take part in the event: Ben Lucchesi, Chief Software Architect, and Javier Muniz, Chief Technology Officer.
“This event highlights the amazing opportunity that exists for governments with open data and APIs. Even with a very limited number of data sets, the event was able to produce useful applications in a matter of hours at no cost to the City of Reno,” said Muniz. He continued, “Similar initiatives, if funded by the City, could have easily cost tens of thousands of dollars per app. This is further proof that open data sets like these can spur innovation in government that can't be duplicated through other more conventional means.”
In the spirit of openness, the entire event took place outside. Individuals and teams were up all night developing away right in front of the courthouse. The event also brought out the local businesses who were happy to provide food, drink (especially Red Bull and coffee) and other amenities to all the developers.
“It was a lot of fun seeing developers get motivated about government and developing applications for their community. Although it was a competition, there was great camaraderie among the developers. It was more of a social challenge to harness open data for the benefit of fellow citizens than an individual competition,” Lucchesi explained.
While Muniz and Lucchesi were not able to enter the competition due to Granicus sponsoring the event, they still participated along with all the other developers and turned out a couple of great applications.
Mobile Traffic Alerts
Based on the Nevada Department of Transportation’s open data, Muniz created an application that will send you alerts about traffic congestion issues such as broken stop lights or auto accidents so drivers can easily avoid problem areas.
Find My Polling Place
Using the open voter registry, Muniz wrote an application where one only needs to enter his or her last name and birth date and the app will tell you exactly where you should go vote.
Safe Firearms Areas
Addressing both a personal interest and a serious issue in Reno of illegal firearms discharging, Lucchesi built an application that will show both county lines as well as highly congested areas so that firearms enthusiasts can find a safe place to shoot. You can check out this app in action right now.
The other entries in the competition were all impressive. Some teams came extremely well prepared and others came to have fun and wing it. Either way, there were some incredibly smart people there that we are now connected with and from whom we hope to learn lots.
The City of Reno put out a video about the competition and discussed some of the applications built by the competition winners. The applications ranged from finding local parks to making mobile photo reports of graffiti.
One thing we hope that governments and agencies can take away from the event is the fact that open data is a great social benefit and if the data is there, you can bet someone will build an application to make it useful.