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Hack and code: Mississauga and Calgary host competitions to find best open data apps

Open data is only valuable when it’s used. In celebration of International Open Data Day on March 5, several Canadian municipalities are hosting hackathons to engage the public to use open data and build innovative apps that will improve their communities. This blog post highlights two competitions—in Mississauga and Calgary—that you shouldn’t miss, plus tips on how to build winning Web maps and apps. This post is part of our Open Data Blog Series that explores the concept of freely publishing public data and how it relates to GIS technology.

This post is part of our Open Data Blog Series that explores the concept of freely publishing public data and how it relates to GIS technology.

On Saturday, March 5, the world will celebrate Open Data Day. Many municipalities across Canada that have embraced open government will mark the occasion by hosting their own open data hackathons. We’re pleased to partner with two of them—Mississauga and Calgary—in their search for the best open data apps.

What’s in it for you?

Open data is only valuable when it is used. So in essence, open data starts with you and your ideas. You can visualize, analyze or integrate open data with other datasets to address a specific problem or improve the way things, such as planning transit routes and garbage collection schedules or communicating the availability of services, are currently done in your community. Whether your strength is in coding, design, mapping, data analysis or coming up with great ideas—your input and participation in these hackathons matter. To help you get started, here’s what you need to know about each event.

Mississauga's Code and the City Idea Jam

  • What they’re looking for: You’ll need to come up with great ideas that can be presented as viable concepts designed around civic engagement and social responsibility.
  • When: Saturday, March 5, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
  • Where: Sheridan College - Hazel McCallion Campus, 4180 Duke of York Blvd., Mississauga, ON
  • Who can participate: Individuals and teams of up to 4 members; minors can participate with parental consent
  • What datasets can you use: Visit the Mississauga Open Data Catalogue
  • What’s up for grabs: Up to $6,000 in cash or prizes
  • How to register: Visit and register by March 2.

Calgary Hackathon

  • What they’re looking for: This year’s theme is “Connectivity”. You’ll need to build a mobile app, Web site or map that focuses on connecting Calgary and introduces significant improvements on current city services.
  • When: Friday, March 4 to Sunday, March 6
  • Where: Atrium of the Calgary Municipal Building, 800 Macleod Trail S.E., Calgary, AB
  • Who can participate: Individuals and teams of up to 6 members; must be at least 18 years of age
  • What datasets can you use: Explore the City of Calgary Open Data Catalogue and the Calgary Region Open Data Catalogue
  • What’s up for grabs: Up to 11,000 in cash prizes
  • How to register: Visit Space is limited to 150 participants so make sure to register before March 4.

After registering for these events, you’ll need to bring your best game to the hackathons. Follow these tips for building great Web maps and apps, and look forward to a great hackathon!

5 tips to outshine your competition

1. Use geographic information system (GIS) technology to build your Web map or app. Most open datasets available are geographic data, so using GIS will help you to easily map them. Plus, Web maps are visual and interactive, and bring the “wow” factor to your presentation.

2. Don’t use just any GIS, use ArcGIS Online. Esri’s cloud-based GIS platform helps you build stunning maps and apps with powerful search, data integration and analysis functionalities. It includes easy-to-use templates that can help you build maps and apps quickly without coding—allowing you to focus more on the data you want to present.

You can use ArcGIS Online to:

  • Develop apps using the API of your choice
  • Host apps on Esri’s cloud services
  • Deploy apps on any device
  • Leverage open-source Esri tools and code on GitHub
  • Promote and sell your apps in ArcGIS Marketplace after the competition

Mississauga releases its data using Esri’s ArcGIS Open Data solution, which leverages ArcGIS Online, enabling you to easily work with their data using the same technology platform.

3. Get inspiration for your entry by exploring our maps & apps gallery.

What issue do you want to address? ArcGIS Online maps and apps are great for storytelling and engaging your target audience. Governments and other organizations use them to deliver valuable self-services including property assessments, the location of schools and bus routes, directions to polling places, election results and updates on public works projects. The My Municipal Government Services app shown above, which was created for demonstration purposes, uses open data to show municipal government services in Toronto. Check out other kinds of open data apps in this demonstration site that uses Calgary data.

4. Start using ArcGIS Online today. You can sign up for a free introductory ArcGIS for Developers account at Browse our Developer Resources at and plan your app for the hackathons early.

5. Connect with Esri Canada representatives who’ll be on site during the hackathons to provide support. Follow this blog and check out my previous posts for more ideas on how to use ArcGIS for your open data apps:

Need more information on how to use ArcGIS Online for your open data apps? Send us your question by leaving a comment below.

About the Author

Joy Chan is the Marketing Communications Manager for Esri Canada. She is passionate about sharing how people are telling their stories and engaging their communities using maps.

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