City officials, tech community talk coding for civic good

Oct 20, 2015

Credit Wikimedia | Grguy2011

Grand Rapids officials and civic-minded programmers look to partner on ideas that use city data for community benefit.

Allen Clark is a brigade captain at Friendly Code – the Grand Rapids chapter of Code for America. 

“People who come and volunteer, working on these projects – they’re not just things you do, things you might get paid for," he says. "We’re helping improve our own communities. So people work a little bit harder.” 

Friendly Code hosts an event on Tuesday night that’s part civic volunteerism and part long-term hackathon.

It starts with presentations by various Grand Rapids officials on city data use and future goals.

“We’re really excited about what their ideas are, what kinds of priorities the city’s [departments] are going to have," Clark says. "And Commissioner [Rosalynn] Bliss, as mayor-elect – what her vision of the city is, and what sorts of things does she want to spotlight.”

Clark says the goal is to come up with creative, open-source projects around those ideas and priorities.

He gives a real-time parking application as one hypothetical example.

And he adds you don’t need to be a code ninja, or even a novice, to get involved.

“Clearly, we’re focused on technology – so, many of our volunteers come from a tech background. But others have a designer and creative background ... (or) usability and user experience," he says. "Also, folks that might know more about the government process and may be, I would say, more issue-specific. Things like safety and justice.”

The Fall Reboot is free, open to the public and starts at 5:45 p.m. at The Factory on Fulton.

You can learn more at FriendlyCode.org.