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Hillsborough County to hold first hack-a-thon



Hillsborough County is getting in on the hack-a-thon game.

The county is using a crowd-funding site to solicit sponsors for the event, scheduled for April 12-14 at the Brandon Campus of Hillsborough Community College, 10414 E. Columbus Drive. Sponsors can help underwrite the costs or donate items of value that can be given away as prizes for hackers who come up with the best ideas.

At this hack-a-thon, the county will make available various sets of data to tech-savvy participants. The participants will compete in teams to come up with ways to use the data in a way that's useful to either the county or residents. That could lead to creation for a computer or phone application prototype, say, that would allow people to keep track of a building permit request or figure out why their water bill has spiked.

"We invite coders to come in and, using live data, come up with applications that can be used by citizens to access their government," said Commissioner Mark Sharpe, who has been pushing to hold such an event for the past year.

Along with general county departments, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit and the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser's office also are participating. 

The city of Tampa has previously held a similar event and hack-a-thons take place monthly at the University of South Florida.

Because of the name, organizers emphasize that participants are not delving into restricted realms of county information. Indeed, several areas of county records will not be accessed to shield protected information, such as health records.

"These are people who want to build something out of nothing," said Ken Evans, a tech-community advocate.

Evans likened the exercise to a chef coming up with a recipe for dinner using only the ingredients available in his kitchen, rather than devising a recipe then shopping for the ingredients. In addition to the county potentially learning a way to better serve citizens, hack-a-thons and other gatherings of this sort serve as a networking opportunity for entrepreneurs.

For more information, check out this website.

[Last modified: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 7:10pm]


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