DoIT is working with groups such as the Smart Chicago Collaborative, a tech-focused civic backed by the city, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and The Chicago Community Trust. The Smart Chicago Collaborative is sponsoring a program that will help developers continue building ideas developed during hackathons over a three- to four-month period. One group that will go through this process is the winning team from a public safety-themed hackathon held in May: CAPStagram, a mobile application that allows residents to attach a photo to a community concern report sent to their local Community Alternative Policing Strategy district.
“Brenna is a great thinker and a great partner in trying to bring those apps that can actually serve people and lead economic development in this city,” said Daniel X. O’Neil, executive director of the Smart Chicago Collaborative, who worked closely with Berman while she was deputy.
ILOpenTech is an initiative of Governor Quinn’s Illinois Innovation Council and is managed by the Illinois Science & Technology Coalition (ISTC) in partnership with the Smart Chicago Collaborative. The program is focused on making Illinois’ open data platform, Data.Illinois.Gov, available and applicable to communities statewide through trainings, community meet-ups and hackathons, bringing together technology developers with civic leaders and community groups. The challenge was sponsored by the Chicago Community Trust, Comcast, Google, Illinois Innovation Council, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The Motorola Mobility Foundation.
ILOpenTech is the state’s first sustained, engaged initiative outside the Chicago metro area to work hands-on with local governments and developers on the collection and publication of open data. It has created a strong foundation for starting or accelerating open data projects statewide by helping municipalities understand the nuts and bolts of using open data to drive innovation.
In advance of the competition, ILOpenTech worked with 12 government IT professionals in the four pilot communities to compile and publish 138 new sets of data about local government operations to Data.Illinois.Gov: 34 in Champaign, 15 in Rockford, 12 in Belleville and 77 from the 42 communities in the SSMMA.
There has been a lot of action in the open data space in the Chicago area, going back at least to the Apps For Metro Chicago competition where the State, County, and City governments collaborated to publish data and award prizes for apps.
But before we launched this project, there was no sustained effort to encourage this work in the rest of the great state of Illinois.
In many cases, like the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association, there was already a wealth of published data. In others like Belleville, we were doing greenfields open data work with great city employees who were eager to get involved. We met tech people in Rockford who were already doing great things around civic apps and connected with the robust incubator community at the Research Park in Champaign.
We spent months traveling around the state, organizing events and connecting people. The common thread, everywhere we went, was a thirst to use technology to make lives better inside communities.
We tried to direct that energy into apps and websites that could support the formation of businesses and stimulate the state economy. The civic technology sector of the technology industry is a burgeoning field, and we have the talent, focus, and policies for it to continue to be centered here in Illinois.
One of our goals for the News Challenge is to involve more people in the use of technology to solve community problems. “Dozens of developers looking at each other in conference rooms over pizza is never going to lead to making lives better… without the active involvement of real residents expressing real needs and advocating for software that makes sense to them,” wrote Daniel O’Neil of the Smart Chicago Collaborative recently. We hope to help extend the spirit of open gov beyond those conference rooms, and to catalyze partnerships between hackers, civic innovators, governments, journalists and others. As a social investor, we feel the time is right to help advance the field.