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How Big Data Helps Big Cities

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A visualization of downed trees in New York City after Hurricane Sandy.

Mayors across the country have released massive amounts of public data, in the hopes that programmers will help develop apps that improve local government.


June 1 marked the first National Day of Civic Hacking, during which cities across the United States invited programmers to come together and improve local government.

In New York, more than 80 teams signed up for NYC Big Apps, a competition in which programmers try to solve digital solutions to the city's problems.

Mayors across the country have released massive amounts of public data, enabling city workers to better understand city problems and helping to launch new businesses. For example, Chicago recently launched SweetAround.Us, an app that emails and texts citizens when a street sweeper is approaching their neighborhood, giving them an extra warning to move their cars. Another app, SpotHero, uses a combination of city data and business partnerships to find nearby parking spots.

Brett Goldstein with Chicago's Department of Innovation and Technology says such services help increase government transparency, start businesses, and provide useful tools for residents.

"We need to tell developers, 'let's solve the city's problems,'" says New York City Code for America program manager Noel Hidalgo. "Having people in government that understand the power of open data will be crucial to life in the 21st century."

From Christian Science Monitor
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