NC OpenPass concludes with open data competition finale

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The NC DataPalooza finale held on Monday, November 13, has been seven weeks in the making. The final three teams have been working to refine their pitches and demo’s since the competition kickoff, held in late September during CityCamp NC, for the chance to walk away with the $5,000 grand prize. One theme that emerged during the finale was a chance for attendees and participants to explore the challenges in our communities and how we can solve these problems by working together.

“I am very impressed that we’ve gathered this much interest in 2017,” said Suja Thomas, Ph.D., at Pendo and a judge for the competition. “The NC OpenPass organizers have done a great job to provide a collaborative environment to foster ideas and then translate those ideas into something useful for our community, empowering people to solve problems with open data.”

During opening remarks, Christopher Gergen, Founding Partner at HQ Raleigh and also a judge for the competition, talked about creating a better, more inclusive ecosystem that engages all parts of community — particularly under-represented communities. This really helped set the tone for the evening as attendees heard from three teams whose common thread was civic engagement.

The three teams in the competition delivering 10-minute pitches and demos before a panel of expert judges were:

  • CivicRise: A smartphone app that sends users calls-to-action on social and political causes they support. Actions can include contacting legislators and other advocacy activities that can be completed on the mobile device.
  • Are We Represented?: Shed light on how representative our elected bodies are by comparing the demographics of local & state elected bodies with the demographics of the communities they represent.
  • mConnect “Connecting Communities”: A mobile app designed and created by a team of Triangle residents. For communities that must currently rely on multiple formats to get timely information to residents, mConnect provides a single stop solution on residents’ hand-held devices.

“The three teams had excellent insight on the needs for civic engagement. They embraced how technology can help, but not overwhelm,” said Associate Professor John Stephens, UNC Chapel Hill School of Government. “The teams showed how we can navigate technology-savvy and technology-challenged communities, and how this is a central problem for all thoughtful public officials.”

Tom Wilson on Blockchain

While the judges deliberated to select a winner, Tom Wilson from Tabula Rasa Health Care’s JRS Innovation Center, delivered a keynote about Blockchain and how it can be applied to cities. He first gave us the basics of Blockchain, and then we explored the idea of “smart contracts” that live on Blockchain where anyone can execute the code of that contract. Obviously, this has a lot of security implications, but the open source development model has already proven that this approach can be sustainable.

The winning team

After deliberation, the judges returned to the competition following the Tom Wilson keynote. The winner, declared by the panel of judges and announced by Christopher Gergen, was CivicRise.

“CivicRise represented the best of open data combined with a growing passion for civic engagement,” said Christopher Gergen, Founding Partner at HQ Raleigh. “We’re excited for the high potential and long-term potential for public impact going forward.”

Stay tuned to for 2018 announcements and other news.

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