Thanks to a city initiative, Baltimore’s brightest techies are geeking out for the greater good, writes Amy Dusto in Urbanite (April 2011). On Civic Hack Day, which took place February 12, local software developers were set loose on several years worth of city data. The goal was to analyze everything from government spending to bus schedules to crime reports and come up with computer and smart phone applications that could make urban life more rewarding and city government more accessible.
The experiment wasn’t without precedent. Data hounds sniffing around in other cities ended up producing the D.C. watchdog application, which lets residents monitor city purchases above $2,500. New York has a “Sportaneous” app for jocks looking to form a pickup round of anything from basketball to yoga to Ultimate Frisbee. And a cab-sharing app benefits thrifty commuters around the globe.
“The more data and the more elegant the analysis, the greater the potential to influence policy and business decisions,” reports Dusto. Want your iPhone to rate local landlords? Remind you when your parking fees expire? Map the daily wanderings of city officials so you can get face time? Proposals are already in the works.
Have something to say? Send a letter to firstname.lastname@example.org. This article first appeared in the September-October 2011 issue of Utne Reader.