The US government has become an unlikely champion for hacker community, helping to win back the word from its current abuse to mean digital ne'er-do-wells with the launch of a National Day of Civic Hacking.
Announced by White House staff, the National Day of Civic Hacking is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a day - well, a weekend, to be precise - during which US citizens will be invited to put their technological skills to good use by improving the state of the nation. 'Civic Hacking Day is an opportunity for software developers, technologists, and entrepreneurs to unleash their can-do American spirit by collaboratively harnessing publicly-released data and code to create innovative solutions for problems that affect Americans,
' the White House claimed in a statement on the event. 'This is an opportunity for citizens in every town and city across the Nation to roll up their sleeves, get involved, and work together to improve our society by cultivating an ecosystem for innovation and change.
The National Day of Civic Hacking certainly has some high-profile backers: the brainchild of Random Hacks of Kindness
, the event is supported by investment firm Innovation Endeavors
and pro-coding group Code for America
along with US government departments including the US Census Bureau, NASA and the US Department of Labour.
The aim of the game, which will take the form of numerous independent-yet-linked events throughout the US, is to help improve some aspect of everyday life or governance through software development. Example ideas include making census data more readily available, or providing better access to government services through the web, or even providing a tool for processing the terabytes of data an organisation like NASA generates each and every day.
It's also a clear attempt to return the definition of 'hacker' to its roots: a person who is interested in some aspect of technology or industry, and who wishes to experiment and learn more. In recent years, the press has come to conflate 'hacker' with 'cracker' - an individual who attacks computer networks and services with the intent of doing harm - with disastrous results for those who self-identify as a hacker in the original sense. With government backing, the National Day of Civic Hacking could do much to reverse this parlous state of affairs.
Details of the event, plus instructions on how to get involved ahead of the launch on the 1st of June for our US readers, are available on the official website