Coders at Alameda County's first Hackathon. This pair won the first place prize for a library-oriented app. Photo courtesy of Alameda County.
Coders at Alameda County’s first Hackathon. This pair won the first place prize for a library-oriented app. Photo: courtesy Alameda County.

There’s a whole lot of information languishing around in Alameda County.

Like the number of times people have reported bedbugs. Or the county’s various fictitious business names. Or the reports of disease.

Now officials are hoping some clever programmers, coders, community activists, and entrepreneurs will come together to turn the county’s raw data into web and mobile applications. Alameda County is sponsoring its second “Alameda County Apps Challenge,” on Saturday April 27 at Berkeley High School. “Got code?” is the theme of the daylong hackathon.

“The Apps Challenge is one example of the ways the county is using cutting-edge technology to increase government transparency and assist residents in accessing vital information,” Keith Carson, president of the Alameda County Board of Representatives said in a press release. “I am excited to co-host this event in the heart of my district in Berkeley, a city know for both its civic activists and technology entrepreneurs.”

About 100 people showed up to Alameda County’s first hackathon in Castro Valley in December. (See video below for recap.) Officials are hoping to attract 150 to the April 27 event, which runs from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

In order to attract interest, the hackathon is designed as a competition with $5,000 in prizes. The first place winner will get $3,000, the second place winner will get $1,500, and the third place winner will get $500, according to Hannah Greene, Carson’s communications manager.

These developers were working on an app that would allow users to report road hazards like potholes. The app would capture the GPS location of the pothole and allow the users to upload a photo. Photo courtesy of Alameda County.

The winners of the Dec, 8th challenge were:

·         AC BookIt! – a clever mobile app that allows users to check if a book is available in the Alameda County library system, reserve the book and get the library’s address. Available on the Apple App Store.

·         ACPR Finder – an app developed by high school students that sifts through County Parks and Recreation Data to provide useful information about local parks, trails and recreation facilities.

·         SNAPMapper – the Yelp for food-stamp users, which shows stores that accept food stamps and is organized by distance, price or quality.

The Apps Challenge is part of a nation-wide movement stemming in part from President Obama’s Open Government Initiative, which directed government agencies to increase transparency and implement open data policies. Both San Francisco and Oakland have organized hackathons.

The material available to explore is varied, and includes public health data, crime statistics, lists of green businesses, a list of HUD residences, restaurant inspections, ARTSFUNDs grantees, and more. In all, there are 96 data sets available to use.

County Administrator Susan S. Muranishi hopes the Berkeley hackathon can take advantage of both the data available and the community’s creativity.

“The events are offering new ways that we can raise public awareness about the many services Alameda County provides,’’ she said.  “They also are an exciting way we can leverage the vast pool of talent and creativity available in our community to enhance and increase accessibility to the diverse array of County services.”

Participants don’t have to know how to write code, according to Greene. If someone comes with an idea, they will be paired up with someone who is technologically-savvy, she said. People can work alone or in teams. If someone has an idea about an app but cannot come to the hackathon, they can submit it.

Tickets to participate cost $15; but $10 for students and seniors. Government employees get in free. Food will be provided.Participants should bring a laptop.

Read about the criteria for selecting the winners.
The available Alameda County data
Read FAQ here.
Register here. 

Source: youtube.com via Alameda County on Pinterest

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman...