12:07 PM

Hacktivists Prep For International Open Data Day

On Saturday, International Open Data Day, cities around the world will host hackathons in an attempt to reveal useful applications of government data.

Want to try your hand at hacking for the possible good of the public? Here's your chance: Saturday, February 23, is International Open Data Day.

The event is intended to be a "gathering of citizens in cities around the world" to write applications, liberate data, create visualizations and publish analyses using open public data to "show support for and encourage the adoption of open data policies by the world's local, regional and national governments." The aim is not simply to build applications based on open data, but to build the international open data community and extend existing applications to other locations.

One example being cited by the event's backers comes from the U.K., where 16-year-old Isabell Long, an attendee of the 2010 open data hackathon, created an app called govspark to help British civil servants better monitor their energy usage. In the U.K., hackathons are scheduled in Dundee, Edinburgh (where it's being hosted at the University), London, Newcastle upon Tyne and Sheffield. Events are being held all over the world; check here to see if your city is hosting.

[ What security issues are most troubling to U.K. companies? Read U.K. Public Sector's Top Security Worries. ]

This will be the third Open Data Day. According to its website, the day resulted from "an international brainstorm" among developers convinced of the social utility of government data as the basis for mash-ups and applications. Canadian data activist and open government figure David Eaves set up the first one in late 2010, when 60 hackathons took place.

Simon Dennis, director of central government activities at the U.K. subsidiary of analytics vendor SAS, said, "This Saturday, citizens, entrepreneurs and businesses alike will learn how they can personally capitalize on the information being made available through global Open Data initiatives."

Dennis continued, "The purpose of opening up data is all about creating economic opportunities, cultivating innovation and making our lives more efficient. Governments around the world have started to realise this, which is why they are making anonymized information available to the general public. Open Data Day is a very promising step towards educating the public about the value of data and how it can be used to innovate and create. Hopefully, it will also act as reminder to the U.K. government that it too can capitalise on the sharing of citizen insights horizontally across the entire public sector."

However, the U.K. government says it is already an open data convert, at least as a basis for such public sector-friendly applications. In December, it invested $12 million/£8 million in initiatives like a new $11.4 million/£7.5 million Data Strategy Board Breakthrough Fund and a new $1.3 million/£850,000 Open Data Immersion Program.

Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude said at the time, "This new funding will help us to exploit the power of open data to fuel social and economic growth [and] will free up more data for commercial exploitation and help drive innovation in public services."

If you decide to share your expertise on Saturday, good luck!

Rick Falkvinge, the founder of the Swedish Pirate Party and a campaigner for sensible information policy, will present the keynote address at Black Hat Europe 2013. Black Hat Europe will take place March 12-15 at The Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky in Amsterdam.

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