Hackers are helping cities open up public records

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The city of South Bend is one of only 10 cities in the country receiving help from an unlikely group of tech savvy Samaritans. Code for America is an organization of hackers dedicated to helping governments improve their relationships with the public.

The group is working to find ways to organize massive amounts of data into a user-friendly digital format.

It will help anyone find information on code enforcement violations, or vacant homes - and will help hold cities accountable.

It's not exactly a name synonymous with public service. In fact, usually "hacking" is thought of as an illegal activity.

But this group is helping to make local government more efficient.

"The ease of getting to data now, it's trying to turn that data into information that people can use to make their communities better and improve somebody's life," said Dan Neumann, Co-Founder of Hack Michiana.

There are a lot of records that are public information, but you can only access that information by filling out a Freedom of Information Act request.

Members of Hack Michiana and the assigned fellow from "Code for America" are working to make information more readily available.

"The low expense for city or state or the federal government to make data available that's allowing people to make new data sets and look for new patterns and use that then to allow citizens to take new actions that they might not have before," said Neumann.

The city of South Bend is using a platform or software called Socrata to collect the data.

The Mayor's Office plans to launch and show off the program next week.

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