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June 4 Hack for Change to combine local passions, digital innovation

May 10, 2016
Huskie Hack: September 2015

Huskie Hack: September 2015

Want to make a difference in DeKalb County?

Register now for NIU’s “Hack for Change,” where citizens, leaders and tech enthusiasts of all ages will collaborate on innovative solutions to local challenges.

This free event will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, June 4, in the Sky Room of NIU’s Holmes Student Center.

Participants will work in teams to identify pressing local issues, brainstorm improvements and explore how digital technology could help by making government services easier to access and navigate.

No coding experience? No worries. Plenty of techies will be on-site. The only requirement is a passion for problem solving.

“Over the last decade, new technologies have created new ways of working that are more collaborative, data-driven, and user-centered,” says Tracy Rogers-Tryba, a research associate at NIU’s Center for P-20 Engagement. “Unfortunately, those technologies have been put to use primarily in the private sector. Hack for Change is all about bringing those innovations to the community and local government, making it more responsive, more efficient, and more useful to all citizens.”

Code for America, the national organization behind Hack for Change, has set three challenge areas for 2016: hunger, housing and entrepreneurship. Depending on their interests, participants can investigate what it takes to apply for food stamps, affordable housing or a business license in DeKalb County – then explore how technology might streamline these crucial processes.

Huskie Hack: September 2015

Huskie Hack: September 2015

“The challenge areas are just options,” Rogers-Tryba says. “Everyone should raise whatever local issues they’re the most fired up about. The more people attend, and the more sectors of our community they represent, the more we’ll get done.”

NIU is rapidly emerging as a hub for “civic hacking,” the use of technology to make government resources more accessible. Tech Bark, the student organization co-sponsoring “Hack for Change,” is the first-ever “University Brigade” of computer coders to be recognized by Code For America.

Hack for Change and the recent CodeAcross DeKalb are part of larger national events focused on the recognition and utilization of coding as an integral part of critical problem solving, particularly for issues related to civic services.

NIU recognizes the growing importance of computer coding as a digital literacy skill and will continue to engage students of all ages along with community members and civic agencies in the search for collaborative solutions.

For more information, contact Rogers-Tryba at (815) 753-2090 or [email protected].