Fostering civic engagement through better apps: OpenShift + Code for America

October 4, 2013

Red Hat U.S. Public Sector Team

In March, we announced a collaboration with the non-profit organization Code for America (CfA). Since then, our OpenShift by Red Hat Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) offering has helped support CfA’s work with local governments to foster civic innovation and engagement.

Across the country, CfA Brigades are forming to work at the local level, creating and redeploying civic apps that align with Code for America’s mission of "a government that works by the people, for the people, in the 21st century."

Much of the work of the Brigades is to create and redeploy apps that make public data more easily accessible and understood. Some apps, like Councilmatic, aim to empower citizens to view and understand local legislation and municipal codes. Other projects, like Philly 311 Sanitation Map and Early Oakland, help citizens more easily access city services like recycling pick-up and child care.

With OpenShift, CfA’s Brigades have access to an award winning PaaS that enables them to easily deploy innovative apps, helping to highlight the role technology can play in transforming government and improving the lives of citizens.

As part of our collaboration, Red Hat is sponsoring seven Code for America events across the country where CfA Brigades will work to create technological solutions to civic problems. By empowering citizens to be a part of the changes in their own communities, CfA hopes to improve the relationship between residents and their local government.

Ryan Jarvinen, an open platform evangelist on the OpenShift team, has already provided training at events in New York City and San Francisco, and will be offering training and assistance at the upcoming CityCamp Minnesota unconference and CfA Brigade Captain Google+ Hangouts.

Our first 2013 event with CfA was the BetaNYC Brigade’s July 31 “BikeHack Night,” focused on creating easier access to public data from the new Citi Bike bike-sharing program in New York. The BikeHack included presentations from local developers who demoed applications, general collaboration, team building, and civic hacking, with attendees working towards creative, innovative and unexpected reuse of the Citi Bike data. Together, representatives from our OpenShift team, New York City Department of Transportation, Datakind, NYU Rudin at Wagner, and OpenPlans developed tools to help New Yorkers locate Citi Bikes, navigate city streets on a bike, analyze the impressive Citi Bike usage, and use collected data to analyze New York bikers’ needs.

In minutes, Ryan and an OpenOakland Brigade member took one of the codebases from the demos and ported it to OpenShift, creating a comprehensive and reusable dashboard application capable of finding data on the status of local Citi Bike hubs. Read more about Ryan’s experience at the BetaNYC Brigade BikeHack Night on his blog.

If you are interested in participating in an upcoming Code for America hack night with the OpenShift team, follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates on these upcoming events:

  • Oct. 5, 2013 – Oakland, Calif.
  • Oct. 26-27, 2013 – Burlington, Vt.
  • Nov. 10, 2013 – Minneapolis

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