Hacking for change at Google

June 04, 2013

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Author PictureBy Patrick Copeland, Google.org

Cross-posted with the Google.org Blog

On June 1st and 2nd, thousands of developers from across the U.S. came together at nearly 100 different locations to participate in the first ever National Day of Civic Hacking. Using public data recently released by the government on topics like crime, health and the environment, developers built new applications that help address social challenges.

At the Googleplex in Mountain View, we hosted nearly 100 developers, statisticians, data scientists, and designers, who stayed long into the night hacking together prototypes that show how data on health and the environment can be used to enrich lives. Fusion Tables and Google App Engine were used to prototype, and groups relied on BigQuery as a workhorse to crunch the biggest datasets. Participants used Google+ Hangouts to connect with hackathons in other states and collaborated with Google Apps and platforms.

Here are a few highlights from the hackathon that stood out as useful, visually stunning, and informative ways to use public data:
  • Eat Healthy for Less, the winner of our Mountain View hackathon, is a mobile web application that uses the Consumer Pricing Index to suggest healthy recipes that can be made on a budget.
  • Data+, a reimagining of how we access data, can make exploring public datasets more intuitive and easily understandable for everyone.
  • Detoxic.org is a web experience and Android app that shows you toxic sites and landfills nearby that you might not know about so that you can take civic action against toxic waste.
Many of the ideas have great potential, and we are encouraging participants to continue their work. We hope that the National Day of Civic Hacking will be a catalyst for innovation in this space, and encourage you to keep track of our tools for civic developers at g.co/civicdevelopers.

Congratulations and thanks to everyone who participated!

Patrick Copeland is director of engineering at Google.org, where he works to build systems that leverage Google's reach to help people around the world.

Posted by Scott Knaster, Editor