It’s not only the City of Oakland that’s reshaping its culture through civic hackathons and a focus on Open Data; the county of Alameda has jumped in in a big way as well.  Inspired in part by 2012’s Code for Oakland,  County Administrator Susan S. Muranishi and her team decided to jump into the civic hacking space, planning community hackathons around the county, to be held throughout 2013.  The first event was held in Castro Valley, in December, 2012; the next one is rolling out in Berkeley, CA on April 27th at Berkeley High and everyone in Oakland is invited to take part–and compete for $5,000 in prize money.

The Alameda County Apps Challenge on Saturday April 27 at Berkeley High School has Got code?  as the the theme of the daylong hackathon and the hope is that hackers will turn up and build useful, useable apps incorporating some of the County’s open source APIs, like the pothole database, the restaurant inspection results database and the library’s book reservation and check out system.

“The Apps Challenge is one example of the ways the county is using cutting-edge technology to increase government transparency and assist residents in accessing vital information,” Keith Carson, president of the Alameda County Board of Representatives said in a press release. “I am excited to co-host this event in the heart of my district in Berkeley, a city know for both its civic activists and technology entrepreneurs.”

About 100 people showed up to Alameda County’s first hackathon in Castro Valley in December. Officials are hoping to attract 150 to the April 27 event, which runs from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Participants don’t have to know how to write code, according to Hannah Greene, who works communications for Carson. If someone comes with an idea, they will be paired up with someone who can program, Also, if someone has an idea for an app but cannot come to the hackathon, they can submit the concept online and the team will share it on hack day.

The April 27th hackathon has some significant payoffs for the winners: the first place winner receives $3,000, the second place winner gets $1,500, and the third place winner gets $500.

About 100 people showed up to Alameda County’s first hackathon in Castro Valley in December. That challenge awarded prizes for:

  • AC BookIt! – a clever mobile app that allows users to check if a book is available in the Alameda County library system, reserve the book and get the library’s address. Available on the Apple App Store.
  • ACPR Finder – an app developed by high school students that sifts through County Parks and Recreation Data to provide useful information about local parks, trails and recreation facilities.
  •  SNAPMapper – the Yelp for food-stamp users, which shows stores that accept food stamps and is organized by distance, price or quality.

The 96 Alameda County data sets that are  available include public health data, crime statistics, lists of green businesses, a list of HUD residences, restaurant inspections, ARTSFUNDs grantees, and more.  Tickets to participate are  $15; $10 for students and seniors. If you’re a government employee you get in free.

Read about the criteria for selecting the winners.
See the available Alameda County data.
Read FAQ here.
Register here.

About The Author

Susan Mernit is editor & publisher of Oakland Local ( a news & community hub for Oakland, CA. A former VP at AOL & Netscape, & former! Yahoo Senior Director, Mernit was consulting program manager for The Knight News Challenge, 2008-09; was a 2012 Stanford Carlos McClatchy Fellow; and is a board adviser to The Center for Health Reporting at USC, Annenberg School of Journalism. She has consulted with many non-profit organizations on strategy, product development and social media/engagement, including, TechSoup Global, Public Radio International and the Institute for Policy Studies/Economic Hardship Reporting Project, led by Barbara Ehrenreich.

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