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Insights / March 13, 2018

Using Open Government Data for Good

By Colleen Powers

When citizens have access to government data, they can come up with new ways to use the data, new programs and projects, and new improvements to public services.

That’s the concept behind Geo:Code, a conference on open data, government, and technology happening on March 24 and 25, 2018. (Register here — it’s free!) Now in its fourth year, Geo:Code invites people from all disciplines to learn more about open data and how it might be used, and to work on projects together in a hackathon.

Project teams at Geo:Code will have access to open datasets from Hennepin County, many of which are now available via the county’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) open data site. Participants could use that data to fuel any project, including a new business venture or a community initiative. But the organizers also hope to see projects aimed at improving or expanding county services, and teams thinking about how they can make the county better.

“My big focus is to match up those project teams with someone in a Hennepin County department, and say ‘Hey, this is the work that residents are doing,’” says Andrew Rose, who is producing the event with Meg Knodl through the county’s Center of Innovation and Excellence. “And look at their work to see if we can learn from what they’ve done, can we collaborate with them, what can we do to work with them to improve Hennepin County services.”

Geo:Code is part conference as well as hackathon, so participants will have the chance to attend sessions on topics such as “Visual Storytelling with Maps” and “Data and Statutes and Laws, Oh My!” People can join a team and focus on their project, switch between conference sessions and project time, bounce among teams, or simply stop by for a session or two to see what Geo:Code is all about.

Another important feature is the Usability Lab, where project teams can test their prototypes and get expert feedback on making them work for users.

Whether or not you have an experience with tech, hackathons, government, or open data, Geo:Code is for you. Everyone is invited to learn and brainstorm about public data and technology.

“They bring the energy, we’ll provide the space and the encouragement,” Andrew says. “We want people to come in, we want projects to form, we want collaboration and hopefully a lasting impact on Hennepin County.”

Software for Good is proud to sponsor Geo:Code this year, and if you’re a developer, a designer, a community organizer, a public employee, and/or a curious citizen, we hope to see you there.