Civic Hackathons: New Terrain for Local Government-Citizen Interaction?

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-7635

Civic Hackathons: New Terrain for Local Government-Citizen Interaction?


  • Pamela J. Robinson School of Urban and Regional Planning, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada
  • Peter A. Johnson Department of Geography and Environmental Management, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada


Abstract  As more and more governments share open data, tech developers respond by creating apps using these data to generate content or provide services that citizens may find useful. More recently, there is an increase in popularity of the civic hackathon. These time-limited events gather tech enthusiasts, government workers and interested citizens, in a collaborative environment to apply government open data in developing software applications that address issues of shared civic importance. Building on the Johnson and Robinson (2014) framework for understanding the civic hackathon phenomenon, Canadian municipal staff with civic hackathon experience were interviewed about their motivations for and benefits derived from participation in these events. Two broad themes emerged from these interviews. First, through the development of prototypical apps using municipal open data and other data sets, civic hackathons help put open data into public use. Second, civic hackathons provide government staff with valuable feedback about municipal open data sets informing and evolving future open data releases. This paper concludes with reflections for urban planners about how civic hackathons might be used in their practice and with recommendations for municipal staff considering using civic hackathons to add value to municipal open data.


Keywords  civic hackathon; civic technology; geospatial web; open data; open government; volunteered geographic information; web 2.0


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17645/up.v1i2.627