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Hillsborough County, Florida to Hold Inaugural Hackathon for Tech Students and Professionals

To launch its Economic Development Innovation Initiative, Hillsborough County has invited local technology students and professionals to participate in its first hackathon



By Greg Scott Neuman
Posted April 11, 2013 11:00 AM

Hackathon participants cooperate, compete, network and - above all - innovate.
Hackathon participants cooperate, compete, network and - above all - innovate.

Hillsborough County is home to central Florida’s busy Tampa Bay metro area, with millions of residents and thousands of businesses. The area is also home to MacDill Air Force Base.

And this weekend, local techies are going to get access to some of Hillsborough County’s most valuable data.

But Hillsborough isn’t being hacked.  At least not in the criminal sense.

Welcome to the Hillsborough County Hackathon, where technology students and professionals have been invited to spend three days networking, cooperating and competing with their peers. Their goal is to design, code and launch civic applications (or “apps”) using County-provided data.

Benefits for Both Participants and Community

Hillsborough County Hackathon will run from April 12th – 14th, and is open to college students and technology professionals.  Since participants will have to design and implement an original app, they are generally expected to work in teams where different skill sets, such as coding and designing, are represented. This gives everyone involved an excellent opportunity to cooperate and network with others in the local tech community.

The competition also presents a chance for each team to test their abilities against those of their peers.  And more than bragging rights are at stake, as prizes are being awarded for the best apps.

Perhaps most importantly, the citizens of Hillsborough County may benefit from what the participants create. Past hackathons spawned useful apps such as Banjo, Docracy and Zaarly. One hackathon app, GroupMe, was bought by Skype for about $80 million in 2011.  Even if the apps developed at Hillsborough Hackathon don’t reach that lofty goal, the ideas and innovations they spark may one day help government function better or give citizens new ways to access services.

Part of a Larger Initiative

The hackathon event is part of Hillsborough County’s Economic Development Innovation Initiative (EDI2), a collaborative effort to highlight the importance of technology and innovation to the community. Ultimately, the goal of EDI2 is to drive investment in the financial, infrastructure, professional and technical assets needed to attract top technology firms to the area – and keep them here.

The companies, government entities, nonprofits and other groups involved in EDI2 have started by recognizing the critical role technology plays in the area’s economy. They want to build on that recognition by providing more of the things talented technology professionals need:  technical assistance, mentorships, co-working locations, peer-to-peer connections and industry events like Hillsborough Hackathon.

Finally, EDI2 will seek to grow and retain Hillsborough County’s technology companies by increasing access to capital, customers, competitive funding programs and other incentives. Those participating in the effort believe the end result will be a business environment that thrives on technical innovation and returns the community’s investment many times over.

Let the Hacking Begin

Doors to the Hillsborough County Hackathon open this Friday at 5 pm. Rules will be announced that evening, followed by concept pitches and voting.  Hacking starts early Saturday morning and continues through Sunday afternoon. Awards for the best apps will be presented later Sunday evening.

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