Code for Oakland: The people's hackathon builds a civic web Saturday

By Angela Woodall and Matthew Artz Oakland

Oakland city government isn't exactly an open book, but several initiatives are underway to make municipal data a lot more accessible to residents.

On Tuesday, the City Council is scheduled to get an update about one program to create an online information portal making heaps of data from crime reports to blighted property records available to the public, and approve another program that will provide funds for several computer programmers and web designers to help modernize city administrative functions using web-based applications.

The push for more transparency will continue at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, when teams of civically-engaged information seekers -- developers, coders, designers, entrepreneurs and innovators -- will be digging into those treasure troves of public data in order to shape the future of their community during the 2012 Code for Oakland hackathon.

The goal of the tech marathon: build tools to support economic development in Oakland, improve civic engagement, improve digital education and literacy and provide tools to attract and sustain local businesses.

The theme this year is Building Our Civic Web.

The previous year's Code for Oakland hackathon produced a job search tool that went on to win a national prize at the Federal Communications Commission/Knight Foundation's "Apps4Communities" competition.

These open data initiatives are "a significant change and a powerful opportunity for our communities," said

Steve Spiker of the Urban Strategies Council, co-organizer of the annual Code for Oakland hackathon. The Oakland nonprofit worked with Alameda County on its open data initiative, called InfoAlamedaCounty.

Code for Oakland, he said, is "A chance for Oakland to lead and not lag behind, a chance to encourage innovation and to intentionally tap the potential we have both in City Hall and in our residents."

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About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.