We love data. The 2010 Census gets us really, really excited. A fresh database drop from a client? We’ll stay late to crack it open and make sense of it. New shapefiles from the UK Ordnance Survey? We’re so there. Often our developers are the ones out front, snagging all the attention by building great location-based software. But behind the scenes we have an amazing team of data specialists who are expert at finding and creating data; building, maintaining, and querying databases; and helping clients visualize and understand patterns in their own data. Great data is at the heart of everything we do.
That’s why Azavea was thrilled to host last week’s DataCampPhilly, a one-day civic data hackathon organized by the folks from Code for America Philly. The day began with a focus on data — specifically, publicly available data. The goal was to use these data to build applications that could make life better for Philadelphians. The teams spent the day tackling several important local problems: improving the way SEPTA schedules are served to the public; making Philadelphia-based spatial data available to wider audiences through a RESTful API; opening Philadelphia City Council legislation to the public through a subscription-based information service; and finding ways to help job-seekers in the Philadelphia region identify job hotspots and possible transportation routes to work.
Events like DataCampPhilly are tons of fun, but they’re also a terrific way to engage the public and get people excited about the ocean of civic data available to them. The most important part of the event was the diversity of participants. DataCampPhilly wasn’t just for people with mad coding skills. We welcomed into our office journalists, public policy experts, volunteer coordinators, community organizers, and artists, in addition to the usual crowd of developers and analysts. As far as we’re concerned, this is what made the hackathon wildly successful.
We hope this will be the first in a series of civic data events that are open to the public, and we’re excited to be part of the process. Let the hacking continue.