Hacking for a better tomorrow

As someone who has been coding for a long time, I can say that there is no greater joy than hacking into something to make it even better. And it becomes all the more special when you do it to make a positive change in society.

Civic hacking, or the act of coming up with new and technological approaches to solve civic problems, is a great way to put your coding skills to use. And there are so many platforms that you can join to work with those who have similar interests.

Backed by Code for America, the annual National Day of Civic Hacking is one such platform that brings together developers, designers, government employees, and data scientists to use the power of APIs and build great apps. The event, which is marked by hackathons held all over the US, is a great way to try and solve complex civic problems in a very short window of time. It really goes to show that the human mind is capable of great innovation in the face of challenging situations.

I’ve been really impressed by some of the apps and solutions that have been created in previous editions of the event. Here are a few areas or challenges for which some amazing hacks were built last year. I’m hoping that they will inspire you to find your passion and become part of the movement, Hack for Change, in your own way and capacity.

Hunger

Despite all the progress we have made, hunger still continues to be one of the most prominent civic problems in the world. And the problem is not located in some far away land — it’s right under our noses. According to The Hunger Project, “Of the 795 million people suffering from chronic hunger, 98 percent live in the developing world”.

That’s why I’m happy to note that last year, one of the most popular challenges was to make it easier for residents to apply for food stamps. As part of the solution, geeks set out to leverage their user experience, design and research skills to create websites where people could apply for food stamps with a few simple steps.

Human resources

Another interesting challenge last year, was to build products and prototypes that aid in workforce training and development. There is immense potential for such workplace data solutions, given that this sector is already worth $140 billion (read this page for details). Imagine the scope of an app that could be used by job seekers to get a list of suggested careers with desired salaries, skills required for the job, and details of the nearest training center. Seems like something we all could use!

Criminal record and victim compensation

If you have ever been involved in an incident related to law and order, you would know that getting the requisite paperwork done is not an easy task. And this holds true for both, the victim and the perpetrator. So during last year’s event, quite a few developers tried their hand at building websites and hacks that help users fill out forms, find advocates and get all their paperwork in place. I expect such solutions to go a long way in making the law and order machinery more leaner and efficient, across countries.

Resource conservation

Given the rate at which we are depleting key resources (energy, water, and food), we need to focus our efforts on conserving these resources around the world. Interestingly, the US Department of Energy and Department of Agriculture were pretty interested in listening to the ideas that the hackers came up with.

So, now that you’ve got enough inspiration, what will you build today?