VERGE Day 2: The city as startup, platform and organism

Perhaps one of the most visionary collection of voices came from coders and developers steeped in the sustainable hacking movement. The hackers are working alongside city governments to leverage technology for more engaged communities.

It’s a perfect way to make progress in lean times, according to Steve Spiker, the director of research and technology at the Urban Strategies Council in Oakland, Calif.

“Hacking is doing things dirty and cheap. You can hack policy, data and institutions,” he said.

Residents of Boston, Mass. and Honolulu are using open data sets to increase public safety. In Boston, Code for America fellows developed an Adopt-A-Hydrant app which enables residents to keep neighborhood fire hydrants clear of winter snow and accessible to firefighters. And in Honolulu, locals committed to refresh the batteries of tsunami warning stations.

Code for America pairs developers for a year of public service with local governments and nonprofits to create applications for social good.

In Oakland, Spiker’s group is part of a project coordinated by Code for America -- a civic innovation project called Open Oakland. Its goal is to show how technology can change a city, he said.

“Government is one of the last industries not truly disrupted by IT,” said Jack Madams, a program coordinator with Code for America.

“When government realizes that they have this platform for enabling so much in their communities – we can do something bigger than the sum of the people working there,” he said.

Reporting contributed by Liz Enochs, Ambika Kandasamy, Hannah Miller, Aaron Tilley and Kristine Wong

See a Storify piece created by Hannah Miller from the VERGE SF session presented by Patrick Kennedy, CEO of OSIsoft: 

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