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Challenge to Hackers: Use New Software Kit to Create Apps that Benefit Cities

Tue May 26 2015
Avi Bender
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Since the U.S. Census Bureau launched its open API (application programming interface) in 2012, we have listened to developer feedback and continued to make improvements to the tool. Our latest update, the City Software Development Kit (City SDK), will help developers create even more powerful, data-driven apps for the public.

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Next month, the Census Bureau will challenge developers to use the City SDK as part of the National Day of Civic Hacking  to address a sustainability issue facing their city. The City SDK provides better interoperability across Census Bureau demographic, economic and geographic data sets upon which data can be overlayed.

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The goal of the City SDK project is to streamline the creation of open data apps for cities and communities across the country; this tool makes it easier for developers to search Census Bureau data variables and mesh different datasets together.

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Through our City SDK, we are aiming to provide a user-friendly “toolbox” for civic hackers to connect local and national public data.

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For the past two years, we have been engaging developers around the country to learn about how many use the API and build code to combine diverse datasets.  We have created the City SDK to make it easier for the developer community to collaborate as they harness the Census API. This is an example of how the Census Bureau, in line with the Department of Commerce, is making data more useful and accessible.

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Tools already on the City SDK include code that converts latitude/longitude to FIPS (state and county) codes; the ability to request GeoJSON (an open source geographic shapefile/boundary format) right along with data from Dataweb (for mapping); a modular architecture that makes mashing up Census data with third-party data a snap; and more. The City SDK is built as an open-source project with the goal of getting direct input from developers and creating a place for improvements to be crowdsourced.

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Through the City SDK, the Census Bureau will enable the development of products and solutions that rely on open data and ultimately provide tangible benefits to cities across the country. We are encouraging developers to submit the apps they are building to the Census City SDK Data Solutions Challenge on Challenge.gov, and visit the Developers Forum to see examples of apps created with our APIs.

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The challenge will open on Saturday, June 6, and will close July 31, 2015. To learn more about the challenge click here. You can become a #citySDK ambassador by hosting a National Day of Civic Hacking project in your city. Create a #citySDK event in your city and register it now!

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