City Hall Goes Geek with CityCamp Honolulu

It’s so simple to create an app or build a website these days that nearly everyone is becoming an expert in the ways of technology. Except for government, it seems. Sure, there are some great solutions popping up to help cities solve that problem, like the Sunlight Foundation or Google’s Public Data Explorer, but it seems obvious that municipalities should look within their own borders for solutions.

Enter CityCamp, a new initiative that combines a startup attitude with a crowd-sourcing methodology to bring “innovation (to) municipal governments and community organizations.” It’s a national program backed by GovFresh, which has started bringing together tech-savvy citizens with the governments that so badly need the help.

Honolulu is having their first CityCamp this Saturday, December 3, and the response has been so great that the 130-seat event is sold out! No wonder, since it includes such heavy-hitters as Sen. Carol Fukunaga, Alissa Black, Government Relations Director at Code for America, and Gordon Bruce, the City of Honolulu CIO. But, it also includes the chance for local citizens to really help Honolulu unleash the gigabytes of data that are currently difficult, if not impossible, to access.

Forest Frizzell, a deputy director in Honolulu’s Department of Information Technology and organizer of CityCamp Honolulu, hopes to tackle issues such as providing city data and maps to other developers, posting city tax and spending trends, creating mobile apps for bike routes and bus schedules, publishing real-time parking availability, and even creating an app that enables an inventory of Oahu’s trees, among other items.

Knowing some of the local tech talent living in Honolulu, a few of these projects could be tackled in a weekend. Others may take much longer, but it’s fantastic to see that Honolulu is taking such a progressive, community-driven approach to offer services that would otherwise never see the light of day (or the opening of the city’s purse).

For more information, check out CityCamp Honolulu’s website, this interview with Frizzell, watch Mayor Carlisle talk about it below, or follow them at @CityCampHNL.

(By the way, their event takes place in an “unconference” format, which is an amazingly creative and collaborative way to execute this type of event. If you’ve never been to or held an unconference, I highly recommend it! It takes any stale, monotonous event and turns it into a party of participation and engagement.)