Future Learn Smart Cities Week 4: Civic Hacking

I’m into week four of my Smart Cities course, and suddenly I’ve hit the point where I’m starting to get seriously inspired. This week, the course materials discussed the idea of ‘civic hacking’.

According to the course notes: “a civic hacker is a person who collaborates with others to build open source solutions using publicly released data, code and technology.” The examples given were Open Data Day, Code for Europe, and Code for America.

In the course comments sections, a lot of people have brought up the issues of getting governments and local authorities interested in solving smart problems on a small scale, and how to ensure that citizens are involved. There’s also the concern of large-scale ‘experiments’ that could easily fail. These are small-scale and low risk ideas that could be slowly built on if they prove workable.

I’ve copied my comments on course hackathons below. I’ve decided to start archiving them here, so that I can remind myself and not have to trail back through FutureLearn for them!

What I love about this is that, rather than putting together a large scale and potentially expensive project at government level that might or might not work, people can throw dozens of ideas at the wall and see what starts to stick. People will be less scared to suggest crazy-sounding solutions, and encouraged to think outside the box, rather than within the budget.

The one thing that these hackathons do rely on is easily accessible open data sources from local authorities. Manchester City Council has announced it’s dedication to coming a smart city through open data, and despite some quite interesting projects coming out of this – such as the Open Data Infrastructure Map, and trawl through their open data catalogue shows that a lot of the content is either missing or out of date, which is disappointing. Anyway, I’ve signed up to a newsletter from Open Data Manchester to see what interesting projects might be in progress around the city.