In today’s fast-past, innovative world, it is a common understanding that good data is as valuable as gold.  Both the government and private sector are beginning to realize its untapped potential.  Quickly catching fire world-wide is the concept of “civic hacking.”  While not the best branding effort, the outcomes have created a catalyst of progress which has quickly redeemed its name.

The concept:  citizens being given access to public data and utilizing it to solve community/government problems.   “Code for America” is a non-profit created by Jennifer Pahlka in 2009.  The Washington Post called it “”the technology world’s equivalent of the Peace Corps …” and the movement is on the rise with grassroots, community-driven “Brigades” popping up all over the country.

These local groups, of both technical and nontechnical citizens, meet regularly to promote and support open data efforts with their local governments.  By identifying problems, public administration and agencies are advised by their Brigades on what available data is relevant to help solve those problems.  In the absence of usable data, Brigades also designs and develops apps as a way to capture valuable information.

Why are governments participating in releasing data?  Because the solutions are free.  These volunteer groups give their talent and time to be engaged, proactive citizens “hacking” for change.  The value to both groups is simple: by improving government, we improve the community.

Being a company dedicated to community support, innovative solutions and helping organizations work “Better. Faster. Cheaper.” … netlogx has been instrumental in planting the seed for this national movement in the State of Indiana.

In 2014, netlogx sponsored, helped organize and volunteered at the first ever “Civic Hackathon” hosted by the Indy Chamber and provided full support, again, for this year’s event.

Both events were hugely successful and from this, a local “Brigade” has been born to continue the spirit of change and engagement.  I and co-worker Scott Moshier have been on the seed team for Open Indy Brigade (OIB) developing a strategic plan to build this organization. On July 9th we hosted our first “meetup” (sponsored by netlogx) inviting local coders and citizens to learn about the movement.  Over 50 people showed up eager to learn more.

Moving forward, the OIB’s mission will be to bring people together to solve government problems.  We plan to educate local and state government on what data is valuable and how to make it available to the public to solve problems.  On the citizen side, we’ll engage people to become active in identifying possible solutions that public data can provide for problems they deal with in their community.  We’ll provide opportunities for coders to create technology solutions that could (as they have in other states) grow into a viable, successful tech companies.

Indianapolis alone has over 19 groups of coders interested in learning more about specific applications and data with 6,000+ followers.  The Brigade will provide an environment of opportunity for these groups as well as regular citizens to make the community a better place.  It’s exciting to be a part of it and I’m proud of netlogx for recognizing and supporting this important and powerful movement.