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Hack-N-Akron "Hackathon" Brings City Data to the People

photo of Wastebits

About two dozen young professionals in Akron spent part of the weekend volunteering to make the city’s data more publicly available. WKSU’s Kabir Bhatia reports on the Hack-N-Akron hackathon.

The name conjures images of coders infiltrating computers to get sensitive data, but the Hack-a-thon was actually trying to do the opposite: taking publicly available city data – such as property lines -- and putting it into a digital form that can be accessed by anyone.

Byron Delpinal was one of the organizers of the event, and says the idea is paying dividends in other cities by allowing people to bypass the lengthy public-records-request process.

“We want to take a lot of the data the city has [and] expose that, so that people can create applications on top of that and maybe find out some trends or patterns or help the city themselves make decisions better-based on data.”

Delpinal adds that the idea is paying dividends in places like Los Angeles.

“They were able to see some trends and create an application that mapped construction data to planned maintenance on utilities data. So now, they have an application they can see what planned maintenance was on, say, a water main and what future construction projects were in that area. So they’ve saved hundreds of thousands of dollars just by saying, ‘Maybe we push forward on that planned maintenance because there’s construction in that area.’”

Hack-a-thon organizers say Akron’s data was delivered both on paper and in a variety of electronic forms, and that they see more volunteers working on civic hack-a-thons in the future.