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Hackers to compete in civic app contest

Ashley Hirtzel

A major app competition was launched on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus Wednesday. The AT&T WNY Civic App Challenge aims to attract technology experts from the eight counties of western New York to create smartphone applications that will improve the quality of live in the region. 

Z80 Labs managing partner Dan Magnuszewski says the community-focused app challenge is a collaborative effort between Z80 Labs,  the University at Buffalo, SUNY Fredonia, the United Way of Buffalo, Launch NY, InfoTech Niagara, Hack Upstate, AT&T, and elected officials.

“The goal of the challenge is to encourage local developers to build apps that serve community needs, connect and engage citizens with their governments, and demonstrate how mobile technologies can lead to the next generation of tech jobs and investment. There will be a total of $18,000 in prizes awarded, with a

$10,000 grand prize, a $5,000 second prize and a $3,000 third prize,” said Magnuszewski.

Magnuszewski says there are opportunities for apps in the public health, tourism, and transportation fields. The ‘virtual hackathon’ will take place over two months, ending on November 10th. He says he believes the word hacking shouldn’t be viewed negatively.

“The word hacking in its truest form is to figure out how things work, break things apart, put them back together and really have a deeper understanding of how things work. That’s really where it came from. In the 90s the media really took over with the term hacker, which then became something of a bad word. But, within the technology and computer science community it’s actually a very endearing term,” said Magnuszewski.

The competition will be judged by elected officials, local leaders, entrepreneurs and tech experts. Assemblyman Sean Ryan will serve as a judge for the competition. He says the challenge adds another layer to the economic growth happening in the city.

“We’re no longer looking at the past to say we want to replicate it. We’re looking at the past and the economic health of the past to say ‘we’re looking for economic vitality going forward.’ We’re not harboring under the illusion that we’re going to bring back an employer that’s going to pop into town 30,000 jobs for low skilled people that haven’t finished high school. That’s sort of the old Buffalo. But, the new Buffalo is in more of a progressive mind-set of being active in trying to encourage high road economic development,” said Ryan.

An event to jumpstart the challenge will take place at the newly opened co-work space called d!g located on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus on September 27th. The symposium will discuss issues affecting the region in order to help participants come up with ideas for their civic apps.

For more information on the challenge you can visit: www.ATTWNY.hackupstate.com.