Students from MIT’s Institute for Data, Systems and Society (IDSS) led a 24-hour policy hackathon in Boston that called upon participants to form teams and analyze data sets to solve urban problems as part of the city-wide HUBweek festival. The proposals from six teams focused on improving transportation safety, employment opportunities, and public health in the Boston area.
Each of the hackathon topics also doubled as important city government initiatives, which in turn offered useful insight for potential solutions. The winning team, “Future Work Hackers,” offered an employment solution for millennials in Boston without college degrees. The program would support private-public partnerships to help individuals gain marketable skills and would also offer tax credits and incentives to companies that hired them. The second-place team, offered ways to improve the collection, coding, and utilization of citizen-sourced emergency call data in order to reduce traffic accidents.
From the organizer’s perspective, the main aim for the hackathon was to demonstrate the importance of cross-disciplinary collaboration to tackling civic challenges as well as sending across the message that anyone, given the right tools and opportunities, can contribute towards a sustainable future.
The UAE public sector has already successfully hosted a series of hackathons for a variety of fields like Blockchain, Data, Dialectology, etc. If future hackathons behave similarly to the HUBWeek sessions, where country initiatives double as the hackathon topics, the results could offer new insights, new ways of using data, and even new questions that are all directly relevant to ongoing public sector work. Complicated federal issues are most effectively addressed when bringing together diverse groups of stakeholders under the fields of science, policy and society. For a lot of entites, policy reports and data analyses could prove more actionable than traditional hackathon outputs like software prototypes or apps.