When is a hacker not really a hacker? When they’re working with cities to help make data more useful for citizens. A new way to help cities in need of cash is apparently the hiring of helpful hackers, who make use of city data that’s been stripped of any personal information, and then create apps that citizens can use in their daily lives. Chicago is one example, where an executive order mandating that all data not protected by privacy laws be made available was recently signed. This allowed hackers the ability to create all manner of apps to help citizens.
Among the types of apps that could be developed is a tool to reveal to cyclists which routes are most popular, thanks to the use of data gleaned from the city’s bike-share program. Another such app which has already been created is the 311 Service Tracker Chicago app, which allows users to track the status of requests made to the city, such as roadwork and rubbish removal. Other cities are also taking part in this newly-popular trend. New York is one, which has developed Embark, a free program that maps subway routes for riders. And in San Francisco, a free iPhone app assists with the use of public spaces with parking and other info.