CityCamp Pairs Open-Source Tech, Gov’t Transparency

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[Editor’s note: The Raleigh Public Record is a sponsor of CityCamp Raleigh]

More than 100 people are planning to converge downtown Raleigh this weekend for a three-day brainstorming session on how to use technology to increase the transparency of local government.

CityCamp Raleigh is looking to attract everyone from programmers to city officials to the “unconference,” which will be split between speaking events, work sessions and presentations all aimed at using the Web to connect citizens with government data. The event, which kicks off Friday at Vintage 21 on West Street, will mimic others by the same name held around the world from Chicago to Brighton, U.K.

The local version was actually born of a Twitter conversation about the events between City Councilor Bonner Gaylord and Jason Hibbets, a project manager at Red Hat. With a little nudge from CityCamp founder Kevin Curry, the pair decided in early April to start organizing their own.

Hibbets said the format will be ideal for the mixed crowd of tech-savvy business leaders, development experts and denizens who are interested in making government better but might not know how to do it yet.

“The whole point of having an unconference is to not have a plan,” said Hibbets, planning co-chair. “Whatever those people are interested in, let them work on it.”

He’s also hoping a cash prize will entice the 150 to 200 expected attendees to do more than just talk. Organizers announced this week they would award $5,000 to the group with the most promising project that uses open-source technology to improve local government.

“The prize purse is actually the motivation, the carrot, to make that worthwhile,” he said.

Raleigh is no stranger to allowing the development community to lend a hand when it comes to solving problems. In 2010, the city began using a service called SeeClickFix to track issues such as potholes using smart phones. Hibbets said he’s hoping CityCamp will help develop more applications like this — especially if it means better service from local leaders.

“Local government is what impacts people the most. It’s what impacts our daily lives,” he said. “Your everyday stuff, your taxes, grafitti, potholes — all of those things affect our quality of life on a daily basis.”

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