Hillsborough County hackathon takes on community concerns

Can coding offer a cure for community problems? Hillsborough County is betting that it can.

Code for Hillsborough, a three-day hackathon in June, could yield real-world solutions to community problems from safety to sanitation. The event, a part of the National Day of Civic Hacking on June 6, aims to bring UX experts, developers and “civic hackers” together with residents, designers and community organizers. The goal: Develop a solution to local civic issues via coding.

“This is a unique opportunity to bring together some of the best and brightest minds in the technology community to push forward civic innovation and open idea-sharing,” says Lindsey Kimball, Hillsborough County Economic Development Director.

National Day of Civic Hacking events bring together participants in cities across the United States each year to build technological solutions that improve local communities.

The county has been a host of the annual hackathon event since 2013 “in order to highlight the growing technology community,” Kimball says.

Hillsborough County has placed an emphasis on bolstering the local tech scene in recent years, from the expansion of its Small Business Information Center into the Mark Sharpe Entrepreneur Collaborative Center to the $2 million it set aside for economic development in the tech and startup community.

In the days before the competition, participating local governments will release data to the public that programmers or “hackers” can then use to develop apps or websites that address community concerns.

Hillsborough County’s team is working on identifying the final datasets, Kimball says. One possible project that Kimball says has been identified as a focus for the hackathon is “the development of an application for children to learn about 9-1-1, and what to do in emergency situations to stay safe.”

Interested in participating in Code for Hillsborough, but not technologically savvy? That’s OK, Kimball says. “Anyone with the passion to make the community better” is welcome to attend and participate.

Tampa Bay event partners for Code for Hillsborough include: Code for Tampa Bay, Hillsborough County's EDI2 programMicrosoft, Laicos, Forex Factory, TekBank, The Iron Yard, CastleRoc Information Services, Collaborative Technologies of Tampa Bay, The Grind Coffee Bar and Kahwa Coffee.

“Working with volunteer community event partners has been a wonderful partnership,” Kimball says, noting Code for Hillsborough’s “dedicated co-chairs” Terri Willingham, Eureka Factory president, and John Punzak, Sr., National Sales Director for Red Hat.

Code for Hillsborough will begin at 4 p.m. on Friday, June 5; the hackathon culminates on Sunday, June 7, with final presentations beginning at 3 p.m.

Code for Hillsborough will take place at Microsoft’s Tampa offices, 5426 Bay Center Drive, Suite 700. The event is free and open to the public.

Read more articles by Justine Benstead.

Justine Benstead is a feature writer for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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