City of Atlanta’s second civic Govathon offers viable ideas for the city

By Saba Long

This past weekend proved Govathon is easily becoming one of the most important events hosted at Atlanta’s City Hall.

Its second civic hackathon was ripe with ideas from city department heads, including finance, public works, Invest Atlanta and the airport.

In less than 24 hours, the teams presented 22 projects to judges and participants, three of which were specific to Atlanta Public Schools. One such application, RightRoute, allows parents and school administrators’ track real-time bus locations and arrival times.

Coming in first was Atlanta Budget Explorer (ABE), followed by Municiplanner and VisAtlanta.

All three provide an atypical level of transparency and ease of access – from city departmental spending to tracking public meetings and events across the region to the well-designed walkscore, density and demographics app.

A few more standouts include:

FormFlow: online form tracker app for internal departmental use. The app allows users to follow the approval process from start to finish, even showing who is holding up the line.  A publicly accessible iteration to monitor the various permits the city issues would likely be well received by businesses and individuals.

ATL Boroughs: a hyper-locally curated website that showcases Atlanta’s must-see and experience neighborhoods. A project of Core Reaction, the team behind ATL Boroughs plans to identify neighborhood ambassadors to plan easily downloadable trips for visitors as they have done with their inaugural neighborhood – Old Fourth Ward. If the content becomes robust enough, it may be of use Scoutmob or even Airbnb if it expands its Neighborhoods feature to Atlanta.

Common Core: a web portal to identify subject-specific Common Core online resources for teachers.  Another application built for Atlanta Public Schools,  the Sharepoint-like website could easily be reworked for use by school districts across the state.

 Votified: a three-step web polling application that verifies the user via a Facebook plugin. During the recent municipal elections, one candidate for the District 5 seat pushed for a “direct democracy” approach to the legislative and administrative processes of local government. While the idea is unlikely to be enacted, Votified does allow elected officials to have a general idea of the public’s opinion on a matter.

Typically, hackathon projects are scaled for immediate use but in a room full of technologists there are bound to be ideas presented that are much grander than a weekend project.

How many times have you driven around in circles in Hartsfield-Jackson’s covered garage looking for a parking space, or even the one at your local shopping complex? The Spot Tracker developed a solution –- a laser-like beam with sensors that shines over an empty parking space. An accompanying mobile app will also allow the driver to identify the space as they enter the garage.

A final noteworthy application, MobileDL allows you to digitize your driver license by using its barcode to upload the content to your mobile phone.  With the recent frenzy of pre-orders for Coin and the number of financial institutions allowing check deposits via mobile devices, the MobileDL team argues that we no longer need to carry a physical driver license.

In less than one year, the city of Atlanta and Invest Atlanta now have two civic hackathons under the belt. A majority of the ideas presented are truly viable and worth pursuing. Technology is reshaping user expectations and experiences in remarkable ways in the private sector. It is refreshing to see the city of Atlanta proactively seeking to do the same.

Saba Long is a communications and political professional who lives in downtown Atlanta. She serves as the senior council aide and communications liaison for Post 2 At-Large Atlanta City Councilman Aaron Watson. Most recently, Saba was the press secretary for MAVEN and Untie Atlanta -- the Metro Chamber’s education and advocacy campaigns in supportive of the Atlanta Regional Transportation Referendum. She has consulted with H.E.G. an analytics and evaluation firm where she lent strategic marketing and social media expertise to numerous political campaigns, including that of Fulton County Chairman John Eaves and the 2010 Clayton County transportation referendum. In 2009, Saba served as the deputy campaign manager for the campaign of City Council President Ceasar Mitchell. Previously, Saba was a Junior Account Executive at iFusion Marketing, where she lent fractional marketing strategy to various ATDC technology startups operating out of the Georgia Tech incubator, ATDC. For the past two years, Saba has presented on online marketing and politics to the incoming fellows of the Atlanta chapter of the New Leaders Council.

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