One Year Later, It's Clear COVID Can't Stop Tech-For-Good

March 3rd 2020 was our first day of Covid at DemocracyLab. Last year’s St. Hack-trick’s Day event was scheduled for the 14th, but with Seattle being the early epicenter of the outbreak we had a decision to make. We cancelled our reservation to use Code Fellows’ space and scrambled to find a way to make it all work online. You’re welcome to read our after-action report to hear how it went.

Now a full year into virtual hackathons, we can see that the pandemic accelerated us in the direction we wanted to go, but weren’t quite brave enough to leap toward - events with no geographic bounds. We’re excited to now see volunteers and projects from all over the world participating in our events. With vaccination becoming a reality, we’re looking forward to meeting the challenge of resuming in person events while maintaining the virtual element.

Innovating Toward Citizen-Created Government Technology

Though our geographic impact is expanding, our roots are still in the Pacific Northwest and we were thrilled to have three projects associated with state and local governments represented at 2021’s version of St. Hack-trick’s Day.

CiviForm is a responsive web application that will be accessible to users and their Trusted Intermediaries to help streamline applications to civic discount programs. A full team of fellows are supporting the City of Seattle to build this application as Seattle provides important resources to low income residents including utility discounts and child care assistance. However, the single portal that is currently used to apply and process for these resources is very inefficient. CiviForm hopes to improve the application process by allowing residents and their Trusted Intermediaries to apply to multiple City of Seattle assistance programs without needing to re-qualify for each. Also it aims to improve the efficiency in the application review and approval process for program administrators who work for the City of Seattle.

Portland Open Data STREAMS uses an evaluation framework for open datasets published by the city of Portland to create a data analysis tool which provides quality assurance for datasets made available between bureaus and to the public. This project is needed as the City of Portland currently has a large amount of public data across its various agencies but accessibility to that data is low for many interested partners and the general public.

SimpleForm is going to be a centralized web application with form entry proposals for CERB clients. This  is needed as CERB provides funding to local governments and federally-recognized tribes for public infrastructure which supports private business growth and expansion. However, the current system is inefficient in terms of archiving and receiving forms. This is because CERB has to send emails to its clients with forms to be filled out and sent back.  Then, someone at CERB has to manually record this in their personal database.

123 Volunteers + 16 Projects = 1 Impactful Event

In addition, there were tech-for-good projects, including consistent contributors like Orcasound and CDP and newcomers like Civic Tech Index and Project Lockdown.

The full list of participating projects included:

A/B Street: A game simulating pedestrians, bikes, cars, and buses in Seattle. Players edit lanes and intersections to improve traffic flow.

Accessibility Ratings: A crowd-sourced application for accessibility ratings will help users and organizations adopt and use more accessible applications.

Civic Tech Index: A global index of every useful civic tech open source software project.

CiviForm: Collaboration between the City of Seattle and to create a universal application tool to streamline benefit applications.

Council Data Project: An entirely free and open application to make it easier to follow your local municipality's council action.

DemocraticLi: Platform for location-based community organizing: Location-specific voting Information and discussion.

EveryVoice Engaged: A platform that helps citizens, governments, and nonprofit organizations solve problems that benefit from effective civic engagement.

iSeaTree: A game-play app that helps kids learn, identify, and record trees in King Co., WA. Works with USFS iTree CO2 calculator.

Nonprofit Exchange Hub: A hub for the exchange of goods, information and connections for nonprofits of all sizes.

OpenSidewalks: OpenSidewalks collects open (pedestrian + accessibility) data for data-driven social justice and equity analytics.

Orcasound: An open source web-app that lets users listen for whales and act to conserve them.

Portland Open Data STREAMS: A platform to support data preparation and data submission to publish City of Portland open datasets.

Project Lockdown: Project Lockdown is a civic tech, interactive platform providing an overview of the state of Human and Digital Rights around the globe.

SimpleForm: UW iSchool Capstone: assisting Community Economic Revitalization Board with a form entry system for better handling of CERB-related projects.

Smart city planning: OSM2GMNS aims to enable a rapid creation of routable multimodal networks and demand in General Modeling Network Specification.

The Butterfly Project: If we are to become a more equitable and just nation, then we must create technology to mitigate the cumulative effects of systemic racism.

Abundant Positive Outcomes

The diverse group of designers, developers, product managers, researchers and citizens who contributed made worthwhile connections, and helped projects make progress toward their long-term goals. This positive sentiment was echoed by a post-event survey of participants, which found that:

  • 94% of respondents to our post-event survey agreed that they were satisfied with the work completed by their team.
  • 100% of respondents said that they continue to work on their hackathon project.
  • 94% of respondents agreed that their overall experience at St. Hack-trick's Day was excellent.

We’d like to sincerely thank all 123 project leaders, volunteers and sponsors who made this event a success!