Hackers have a bad rap. Thanks to a handful of cyber criminals, the term “hack” has come to be associated in many circles with nefarious activities — at best, invasion of privacy, and at worst, theft of identities and classified information.
It’s a shame that these individuals have tainted the name of a skill that can be used for good just as easily as it can be abused or exploited. The National Day of Civic Hacking on June 1-2 encourages hackers to use their skills to help better people’s lives by making publicly-available data more manageable. Imagine an application that helps local food shelters redistribute resources by identifying shortages and excesses in different neighborhoods. Or how about an app that will consolidate the best resources for local after-school child care options based on an individual’s location, schedule, and budget?
If you’re a programmer, software developer, or hacker by any other name, I highly encourage you to participate. And don’t worry about getting a bad rap — the National Day of Civic Hacking has 19 government partners and the support of numerous corporate sponsors and contributors. This is not a scheme to encourage criminal activity; it’s a collaboration of civic-minded and tech-savvy individuals trying to make Big Data more manageable for the little guy. Even the Institute of Museum and Library Services will be participating; if librarians are involved, you know it’s legit.