The White House Announces National Civic Hacking Day

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Hackers to improve America?

The US government has established the first two days of June as the National Days of Civic Hacking, hoping to inspire software developers, technologists and entrepreneurs to contribute to social issues through computer code.

The initiative is supported by a number of organisations, companies and government agencies, including Code for America, NASA, Department of Labour and the US Census Bureau. A total of 28 American cities are already planning to run events as part of the National Days of Civic Hacking.

Better living through code

One of the main aims of this initiative is to get coding enthusiasts involved with open data publicly released by the US government, in order “to create innovative solutions for problems that affect Americans”. Another goal is to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education by encouraging students to utilise technology and solve real-world problems.

As part of the National Day, the participating organisations, along with an army of volunteers, will host events and challenges across the country, inviting anyone “whether a newbie or an expert” to become a part of the Civil Hacker community.

So far, 28 cities have registered their interest, including the usual tech hotspots, such as New York City and San Francisco. Most of the events have trendy names: block parties, hackatons, brigade meetups.

Interestingly, the new National Day seems to have very patriotic undertones. “This summer will mark the first time local developers from across the Nation unite around the shared mission of addressing and solving challenges relevant to OUR blocks, OUR neighbourhoods, OUR cities, OUR states, and OUR country,” read a statement from the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

With the UK being the world’s leading nation as far as open data is concerned, a similar national day could work just as well on this side of the Atlantic. Last year saw the establishment of Open Data Institute, backed by inventor of the Web Sir Tim Berners-Lee. However, critics say that there’s still a lot to be done to make the terabytes of free government information useful.

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