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Hacking for a community cause

Tech developers will compete to solve local civic issues on Saturday, Oct. 10 during the Western New York Civic Hackathon. For 13 hours, teams will face off to deliver the best technological solution to issues facing the region.

The competition, which will award $3,500 in cash prizes, will focus specifically on issues of property blight, transportation, and public policy.

Leaders from regional tech and advocacy communities will provide guidance as teams compete for the $2,000 grand prize.

Elaina Mulé is the director of research and public policy at the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County, one of the organizations sponsoring the event. She said Western New York is a hub for tech professionals, and wants to match developers with data sources.

“We want to open people’s eyes to the community issues and what data is or is not available so that we can all work towards more open data and more knowledge for the community. And if a successful app is developed, I think that’s a great motivator to get other organizations in the city to open up more data sets and make them more accessible to see what can be done with them and how that can help the community,” said Mulé.

While there are only three cash prizes, Mulé said all participants can benefit from competing.

“We’re offering not only cash prizes but experiential prizes where we’re going to try to set up winners with incubators, or people who can help advise them on making their product sellable and how they can monetize their creation. We want to help foster what’s built into really becoming successful,” said Mulé.

She said one of the key partners to the event is the student community at the University at Buffalo.

“A lot of students don’t have cars, and they have trouble getting around, or they also have trouble finding reliable landlords and good housing. These were issues that were really important to the students, but they’re also very broad and a lot of people in the community can relate to them,” said Mulé.

The Hackathon is a day-long event sponsored by AT&T, United Way, the University at Buffalo's Association for Computing Machinery, InfoTech WNY, the University at Buffalo office of Science Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach, dig Buffalo, Buffalo Open Data, and WNY Innovation Hotspot. Those interested in participating can register for free on the Western New York Civic Hackathon website at wnycivichack.com until Wednesday, Oct. 7. Winners will be announced the day after the contest.

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