Chicago has so many things going for it; why aren’t people coming here by the trainload? Between the free music, excellent museums, decent transit system, and wonderful architecture, it’s hard to schedule a weekend. The great colleges and universities, burgeoning tech industry and thriving business and non-profits are driving huge potential.
Civic tech communities comprise one phenomenon that contributes to Chicago’s greatness. Chicago leads the nation in releasing city data to the citizens, and the civic tech community turns it into usable and vital tools that inform Chicago’s citizens about the state of our city. Here are just two examples. Many other meetups around Chicago work on other aspects of civic tech.
- At ChiHackNight, 70 to 150 dedicated hackers, including community organizations, data scientists, design professionals, developers, journalists and government officials get together for 3 hours every Tuesday at the Merchandise Mart to build, share and learn about civic tech. An example is found in “My building doesn’t recycle“, one cause of the recent rewrite and tightening of Chicago’s 20 year-old recycling law. In another project, ChicHackNighters researched and wrote a program to predict whether a beach should be shut down due to high e coli levels (it takes 24 hours to turn the test around, so by that time the day is well over). Chicago’s Department of Innovation and Technology is testing it against the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s program and it’s turning out better results than the federal model.
- Smart Chicago is a civic organization devoted to improving lives in Chicago through technology. A start-up, funded by the City of Chicago, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and The Chicago Community Trust, Smart Chicago works between government, the market and our communities to make Chicago a better place to live. Their current work includes a program with the Department of Public Health to role out Healthy Chicago 2.0 to working with the Department of Innovation and Technology on the Array of Things (an experiment to automate the tracking of key environmental data). Smart Chicago hosts an army of tech testers ready to test applications and programs before releasing them to the public.
It’s great to live in such a live city where people are banding together in the commons to bridge the gap prove the lives of Chicago’s citizens.