You may have heard of a “phone-a-thon” to raise money for a worthy cause. The State of Iowa is sponsoring a “code-a-thon” with the hope of getting computer wizards to design new applications or “apps” that will help the public navigate through government data.
Participants will pay a $30 fee. They’ll cull through data from cities, counties and the state of Iowa that’s already available to the public and try to come up with an “app” that can be sold for smart phones.
Christian Renaud is with StartUp Iowa, the host of the code-a-thon. “We only have three million people, but we have more entrepreneurial activity going on here than states two-, three-, four-times our size,” Renaud says, “and we often overlook that in our Iowa humbleness.” According to Renaud, there’s a new movement among computer entrepreneurs to avoid the coasts where the cost of business is high and, instead, to base their start-up companies in the Midwest.
And Renaud says Iowa’s “culture” is a good fit for entrepreneurs. “What’s more entrepreneurial than putting seeds in the ground and praying to God that they’re actually going to bloom?” Renaud says. “We have that in our D.N.A.” Code-a-thons are popular in Silicon Valley as computer programmers compete in a race against the clock to create new apps.
The three-day OpenIowa competition will start Friday, April 27th and conclude on Sunday the 30th. “If this were a ‘Top Chef’ competition, what they’re going to be creating from is all the government data…that has been sitting there, sort of poorly under-utilitized,” Renaud says. “So this is a great opportunity for them, as many of them are very, very politically active and socially active — there is a high degree of civitas in the start-up community, this is a chance for them to demonstrate that with the skills that they already have.”
Civitas is a word that can be traced back to the Greeks. It refers to the responsibilities of citizenship.