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Minnesotans Ready to Hack through Inequity

A St. Paul event, CodeSwitch, is part of the National Day of Civic Hacking on Saturday. (Matylda/FlickR)
A St. Paul event, CodeSwitch, is part of the National Day of Civic Hacking on Saturday. (Matylda/FlickR)
September 20, 2017

ST. PAUL, Minn. – A hackathon this weekend aims to use computer code and real-life experience to solve pressing social problems. The two-day event in Saint Paul is part of the National Day for Civic Hacking, a four-year-old federal initiative to encourage community activists to harness the power of technology.

Sharon Kennedy Vickers, an IT consultant and co-founder of Blacks in Technology, says the event will bring together people from many different backgrounds.

"It's for anyone who is impacted by inequities or a gap that exists here in Minnesota and wants to change that and utilize that skill, whatever that skill is, for good," she explains.

There are five topic areas: public transit, health and wellness, civic engagement immigrants and refugees, and economic opportunity.

Kennedy Vickers says registration already is double what it was last year. The two-day event is free and will take place at the Union Depot in Saint Paul.

Last year, the hackathon prototyped an app that would connect homeless people with available beds.

Organizer Casey Helbling, the CEO of Software for Good, says the hackathon will produce new ideas because of the different experiences people will bring.

"It's going to bring all different kinds of people together from all different walks of life in a very short period of time," he says. "They're going to come up with some really cool things. It gives people a chance to start learning and start trying to solve some problems."

The stated goal of the conference is to disrupt inequity, and to make communities more livable by solving actual problems. More than 20 cities are participating.

Laurie Stern, Public News Service - MN