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Hack for Change Aims To Make Miami A Better Place

Hacking, once a hobby solely for computer experts, has gone mainstream. This Saturday and Sunday, LAB Miami is hosting Hack for Change, a "National Day for Civic Hacking" that's also happening simultaneously in other cities across the country.

These hackers, however, won't be busting into the FBI website and adding handlebar mustaches to the faces of America's Ten Most Wanted. Instead, they'll be making the world a better place.

Government and corporate websites have increasingly made information more accessible to the public in the spirit of transparency. This weekend, hackers will use that info and apply it to a social problem, in the hopes of finding a solution.

Daniel LaFuente, COO and CFO of LAB Miami, explains, "Some people complain about the lack of access to fresh, local produce. Farmer's Markets complain [about] their troubles in attracting customers. So The USDA has created a challenge to create an interactive Farmer's Market Directory to support local agriculture and healthy eating."

In the farmer's market scenario, hackers will use public information to create an app that improves the lives of American consumers and business owners.

LaFuente continues, "This hackathon is more than just clever uses of technology - it's about people coming together, in the spirit of civic duty, to identify problems, generate ideas and solutions, and take action on improving our city. The fact that you can do all of it in 24 hours shows the power of collaboration and benefits of serendipity."

Hack for Change Aims To Make Miami A Better Place

Cultist: For those not technically inclined, could you give a "HackNation for Dummies" kind of explanation of the event?

Daniel LaFuente: While hackathons typically bring together people involved in software development to create solutions for a certain problem, Hack for Change: Miami is calling on anyone with a passion for Miami, a desire to improve it, and the time/talent to do actually do something about it.

Simply put, Hack for Change: Miami will start by having participants identify problems and brainstorm solutions. Then participants will actively work with the more traditional hackathon participants (programmers, graphic designers, etc...) to create solutions over the course of the weekend.

Why is Hack for Change socially relevant?

Because this hackathon is the first [event], at least in Miami, where people across all disciplines will be participating. From the traditional programmers and graphic designers, to newcomers like artists, stay-at-home moms, and goverment officials, all will be collaborating on this hackathon. Technology isn't going anywhere, and it's only getting faster -- this hackathon will help even the most novice technical person understand the benefits of software development.

Because this hackathon is trying to create solutions for all citizens - not just a small subset of people. This is the coolest, and most direct, way of increasing the efficacy of our government by helping solve problems that could take the government years to do.

Will there be any actual hacking, as it is thought of by the mainstream populace?

No need for hacking -- national, state, and local governments in addition to private companies and other large organizations have already opened up access to large datasets and APIs. That means people can get right to work on developing creative ways to synthesize the data or create solutions based off of identified problems.

A "hack" doesn't necessarily mean illegally infiltrating someone's computer or servers, but a clever solution to a problem using readily available resources.

What can people expect from the event? What sort of activities will there be?

The event will begin with some keynote addresses to help get the creative juices flowing. These speakers will help shed more light on each challenge. After the speakers, there will be a lunch and brainstorming session led by the Knight Foundation -- this is an opportunity for interested members of our community to meet, eat, and think of what Miami needs. Then, teams will form to begin developing solutions (they will have 24 hours - from 2 p.m. on Saturday to 2 p.m. on Sunday).

On Sunday afternoon, teams will then present their ideas to all the participants. Anyone who submits their idea will receive additional support in the form of guidance and workspace at the LAB to continue developing their solutions to the point where they can be publicly consumed.

Are there any well-known locals participating?

Matt Haggman, program director of the Knight Foundation, will be moderating Sunday's presentations. Alberto Cairo, author of "The Functional Art," will deliver our keynote address, and more then 60 startup founders, VCs, and other institutional leaders will be among the already 250 plus registrants.

Hack For Change: Miami runs from Saturday, June 1 at 9:00am to Sunday, June 2 at 5:00pm. Visit hackforchange.org.

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