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'Hackers' ready for Round 2 against public-sector problems

June 5, 2015

Around this time last year, software developers from the area convened for the first Indy Civic Hack to help solve municipal problems, including reducing the number of “When is my trash pickup?” calls received by the mayor’s office.

This year, government agencies are hungry for tech solutions to arguably bigger challenges, including mapping blighted properties and digitizing a massive mileage-reimbursement process.

“It’s drummed up so much interest this year that we thought we could afford to provide a few different challenges,” said Michael Huber, CEO of Indy Chamber, which has partnered with tech advocacy group TechPoint to stage the second annual event.

“At the end of the day, the tech teams go to work and our civic partners are the clients," Huber said.

Some 150 “hackers” are expected to descend on the Eleven Fifty coding academy in Carmel on Saturday for the event, which starts at 10 a.m.

The pro-bono coders, who will break into teams, include students and tech employees from startups and large firms. They’ll have 12 hours to craft solutions, after which judges will pick a winner and two runners-up.

The winner will have until June 15 to refine the solution for final submission. The top prize includes $1,500 in cash, free services provided by Indy Chamber and TechPoint, and the opportunity for contract work with government agencies.

This year, IPS is looking to overhaul its mileage reimbursement process for employees and contractors, as well as to streamline its magnet school application process.

The City of Indianapolis is looking to map disinvested areas and streamline its vendor payment system at the Department of Code Enforcement.

The Indiana Family & Social Services Administration, which serves over 1 million Hoosiers, wants a self-service portal for one of its divisions.

“That’s never going to be enough time to solve a problem,” Huber said about the 12-hour time frame. “But what we’ve seen is that it allows the civic partner to reframe the conversation … and think of the approach in a new way.”

Last year, a group of students won the challenge with a pothole-tracking application. The app required people to rest their phones on their dashboards, and vibrations would alert officials to problem spots across Indianapolis.

It’s unclear if the pothole app is still in use, but Huber said the relationship between the city and that group “continues and it’s leading to the development of new mobile applications.”  

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