Steve Spiker, OpenOakland Brigade Captain and Director of Research & Technology for Urban Strategies Council, discusses Oakland’s open data progress and what attendees can expect from the event.
What’s the state of open data in Oakland?
We’ve done a lot of education with city staff and council members on the need and benefit for open data, and just this week a committee approved a staff report to go to council with two viable options for building an open data platform for Oakland – an internally developed system or an external solution, something like Socrata or Junar. We’re hoping this moves forward smoothly, and we see a new system live before the end of the year – a first for an East Bay city!
In the past the only open data content was provided on our platform at www.infoalamedacounty.org as part of our efforts to democratize data and also provide a system for planners and nonprofits and policymakers to access good public data for decision making and analysis. We’ve made all our data simply downloadable from within the mapping tool.
See also my recent post about this here.
We are also working with Alameda County to plan for and launch their new open data platform also.
How did the idea for Code for Oakland come about? Who’s behind it, and what can attendees expect?
Oakland is a city with all the components to make it an incredibly prominent, productive technology mecca, except for formal city support of this work. A group of local media folks, local technologists, tech/data loving nonprofits and interested city staff got together to provide an event each year where civically engaged residents, developers, media and curious city staff can get together and build or work towards solutions to local issues faced by our community and our city. As with last year we will have a hackathon for the folks who want to create new tools with $5,000 in prizes and some great support packages to help the winners bring their apps to market.
The main organizations supporting this are Urban Strategies Council, Oakland Local, Code for America, the City of Oakland and TechLiminal.
What makes Code For Oakland somewhat unique is the non-hack events. This year we will have sessions for information activism, learning about open data, a chance to build out a permanent record of our great city on a LocalWiki site and a great urban exploration event using ForageCity (an app built by a local gem Youth Radio) where people can use technology, maps to find surplus food in their community.
What long-term plans do you have for Code for Oakland, growing the Oakland open data movement and leveraging this to help the city?
The Code for Oakland organizing committee is eager to move beyond a single event per year, and we hope to build the team’s capacity and the city’s support to allow more frequent events in Oakland.
During the event we will be highlighting work from last year’s event with a discussion on the ways we can support and sustain efforts like this where an app has perhaps little commercial value but a potentially huge community value.
As with most U.S. cities there are dozens of ways that smart technologists and engineers can make a huge impact on how well our cities function, we think this is a worthy challenge and needs our support long term. This was part of the reason we created OpenOakland – a Code for America Brigade focused on supporting local hackers to connect with civic issues and city staff to work together to build tools that transform our city.