Indy Idea Hub’s Three-Month Hackathon Will Help Modernize Government
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to take these projects from the concept stage to a minimally viable product. The idea, Kirby said, is for these “foundational” projects to lead to additional collaborations.
Kirby said the matchmaking process is underway now. Each volunteer team gets a project leader, technical leader, and subject matter expert, and it falls on the project leader to determine what the team can bite off in three months. In November, the Indy Idea Hub teams plan to reveal what they’ve created so far, along with where the organization sees the projects going in the future. Due to the large amount of community interest so far, Kirby said there will be 10-15 people on each team.
“We hope this takes us from being an event-driven organization to one that creates solutions that go places,” he added. “It’s kind of a chicken and egg problem—the community wants 21st century tools, but we’re dealing with local and state governments that are behind technologically. That cultural change won’t happen overnight.”
Kirby recalls that when he organized his first civic hackathon two years ago, he went around to the various city departments requesting their data and they looked at him “like I was nuts.” Today, Indianapolis has an open data portal, which went live in May. Kirby said he’s optimistic that municipal agencies will only become more transparent as the value of open data is better understood.
“Most agencies believe making data available is dangerous,” he said. “That’s their job, to protect that information. But there has to be a push for transparency, along with privacy and security. How do you exhibit the return on investment for non-tech people? That’s why we’re doing this. We’re trying to create solutions using the little bit of data we have, and then we can show that and say, ‘If this is what we’re able to do with the little information we have, imagine what we could do with more.’ It’s an ongoing campaign to educate elected officials.”